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Booklist: Nonfiction, Memoirs, and Resources on Teen Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, and Rape

Tue, 01/26/2016 - 07:00

February in Teen Dating Violence Prevention month. On the YALSAblog, you can read about the need for programming that addresses this problem as well as strategies for working with community partners to tackle the issue. In addition to highlighting fiction that tackles tough subjects like sexual assault, rape, and dating violence, these are some nonfiction titles that focus on the subject. These can supplement programs and community resources to provide teens with the information they need to prevent violent relationships and build healthy ones.

CC image via UN Women Nonfiction and Memoirs

UnSlut: A Diary and a Memoir by Emily Linden
A recent publication, this book juxtaposes Emily’s diary as an eleven-year-old who is branded a slut with commentary from her perspective as an adult.

Tornado Warning: A Memoir of Teen Dating Violence and Its Effect On A Woman’s Life by Elin Stebbins Walda
The author recounts her personal experiences with an abusive romantic relationship during her teen years.

Lucky by Alice Sebold
While harrowing to read, this memoir about the aftermath of being raped at eighteen and the subsequent investigation and prosecution of her attacker is full of wit and candor. Sebold speaks frankly about her subsequent drug abuse and mental illness.

In Love and in Danger: a Teen’s Guide to Breaking Free of Abusive Relationships by Barrie Levy
This is a resource that recounts the experiences of teens who have been in abusive relationships as well as offering strategies for breaking the cycle of abuse and developing healthy relationships.

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer
A searing indictment of rape culture, this book follows Krakauer’s attempt to understand the effects of rape by someone the victim knows as they navigate the criminal justice system in on college town.

Take It as a Compliment by Marian Stoian
This graphic novel is a series of illustrations inspired by her own experience, interviews, and anonymous correspondence with survivors of sexual abuse and assault that expresses the complex emotions survivors experience. It was chosen for the 2016 Amelia Bloomer List of feminist literature for young adults.

The V Word edited by Amber J. Keyser
This collection of true stories about first sexual experiences from YA authors presents a wide variety of viewpoints.

Professional Resources

Programs to Reduce Teen Dating Violence and Sexual Assault: Perspectives on What Works  Arlene N. Weisz and Beverly M. Black
This book will be of interest to anyone who works with teens and is interested in what strategies have been proven to reduce incidents of dating violence, rape, and sexual assault and may inspire program ideas that libraries can implement in conjunction with other agencies and organizations who serve youth.

Sex in the Library: A Guide to Sexual Content in Teen Literature by Mary Jo Heller
With reviews and guides to the content of over 100 young adult novels, as well as information on collection development policies and advocating for this kind of material to administrators, parents, and guardians, this is is a great resource for teen librarians and library workers.

Answering Teens’ Tough Questions: a YALSA Guide by MK Eagle
This guide tackles numerous issues, from bullying to self-harm to sexual abuse, and can guide teen librarians and library workers in navigating these sensitive issues.

Helping Teens Handle Tough Issues: Strategies to Foster Resilience by Jill Nelson
Young adults face a myriad of challenges today, and this guide offers adults who work with teens practical advice for helping teens.

— Molly Wetta, currently reading More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera for The Hub Reading Challenge

The post Booklist: Nonfiction, Memoirs, and Resources on Teen Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, and Rape appeared first on The Hub.

Booklist: Dating Violence, Consent, and Healthy Relationships in Young Adult Fiction

Mon, 01/25/2016 - 08:00

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, which is an opportunity for libraries to highlight resources that can help teens identify the warning signs of problematic relationships and to see what healthy relationships can look like. These books can start conversations and perhaps even make a difference in the lives of teens.

Dating Violence, Rape, and Sexual Assault in Young Adult Literature

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (2000 Printz Honor Book)

This novel is a classic for a reason. Melinda, a freshman in high school, is a social outcast because of an incident that happened over the summer, and she doesn’t speak to anyone. Though fifteen years old, the story doesn’t at all feel dated, and many teens can relate to Melinda’s struggles with fitting in and finding her voice. With unflinching honesty, Anderson writes about the aftermath of rape.

All the Rage by Courtney Summers

Remy was a popular girl, until a boy she had a crush on—who happened to be the son of the Sheriff—raped her. When she accuses him, she’s relentlessly bullied, even more so because she doesn’t conform to what people expect of victims. This book is an indictment of rape culture.

Lily and Taylor by Elise Moser

There is a lot of truth in this novel that will make many readers uneasy and uncomfortable.  Taylor has internalized abuse so deeply that she thinks she deserves it. Lily has become a keen observer of people so that she may anticipated and attempt to diffuse abusive situations. When they’re forced to go to a cabin with Taylor’s boyfriend and another boy who owes him a favor, they go into survival mode. This book pulls back the curtain on ways of living some would rather not have to see. The characters are living in poverty, on the margins, without a social safety net, but Moser has done a great job of depicting two reactions to a lifetime of abuse and how the cycle continues from generation to generation. Harrowing, but an excellent treatment of the topic.

Fault Line by Christa Desir

In this novel, Ben’s girlfriend attends a party without him — and she’s raped by multiple boys. There are lots of young adult novels that deal with the aftermaths of sexual assault from a survivor’s point of view, and many of them are excellent. Desir takes a different approach with Fault Line and tells the story from Ben’s first person perspective. Not only is his voice compelling and authentic, Desir’s portrayal of the pain and frustration of not knowing how to help someone you love work through their trauma and the guilt of believing you could have prevented it are heart-wrenching. While the writing makes for a quick read, the book raises questions that require thoughtful contemplation and could serve as the basis of discussion of slut shaming, rape culture, bullying, victim blaming, and other important issues. Desir’s expertise shows in her nuanced and realistic portrayal of rape and its aftermath.

Bitter End by Jennifer Brown (2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults)

Many of these novels depict the aftermath of dating violence or sexual assault, but this novel shows how a new relationship can seem so romantic at first, but escalate through the cycle of violence as the abuser becomes increasingly jealous, emotionally manipulative, and physically violent. Jennifer Brown is a popular author with fans of realistic YA and this novel is a solid choice for a discussion on dating violence and healthy relationships.

Inexcusable by Chris Lynch (2015 Popular Paperbacks)

This novel takes a unique approach, and is told from the assailant’s point of view. Keir’s a good guy, and he loves his girlfriend — he would never do anything to hurt her, right? This short book will appeal to reluctant readers and is a great starting off point for a discussion about consent.

Pointe by Brandy Colbert

Theo, an elite ballet dancer, copes with memories that resurface when her best friend, who was abducted years ago, returns. The story also explores issues of rape, consent, and healthy relationships. Theo’s voice is very authentic, and the novel tackles a myriad of issues without being didactic and is great fodder for discussion.

Breaking Beautiful by Jennifer Shaw Wolf

This novel blends a mystery into a story of teen dating violence. Allie survived a car accident that killed her boyfriend, Tripp. She doesn’t remember much about the crash, but isn’t all that sad about the death of her controlling, abusive boyfriend. When she’s finally able to piece together what happen, she’s surprised at the truth of what happened that night.

Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta (2011 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2011 Top Ten Amazing Audiobooks)

This epic fantasy is about a curse that has displaced half the people of Lumatere and left them without a homeland, while some are trapped inside the country, and Finnikin’s quest to find a way to break that curse and reunite his people with the help of a young novice, Evajalin. Although not a main plot point,  a secondary character, Froi, attempts to assault Evajalin  in one important scene that is crucial to his character arc. Froi’s story is the center of the two subsequent novels in the series, and his journey of redemption is compelling, The entire trilogy deals with issues of consent in important yet understated ways. While the setting may be fantastical, the concepts and conflicts are universal, with many parallels in real-life relationships and global conflicts.

Sex & Violence by Carrie Mesrobian (2014 Morris Award Honor Book

Ethan likes sex, and he seeks out willing partners that don’t require emotional investment. When he hooks up with the wrong girl, he’s severely beaten by other young men. He spends his recovery at his family lake house to recover and spend time with his distant father, he meets a girl very different from his previous conquests, and begins to untangle the relationship between sex and violence. This novel is a very nuanced, character-driven study of teen sexuality. While not explicitly about dating violence, sexual assault, or rape, it serves as the foundation for lots of conversations about healthy relationships.

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston

This forthcoming release is the story of Hermione, who is drugged and rape at an end of summer party at cheerleading camp. She can’t identify her attacker and goes through the painful medical and legal process to attempt to discover who it was, all the while questioning whether it was her boyfriend — who had been pressuring her to have sex — or another of her teammates. What separates this novel from others is that Hermione has supportive parents, a best friend, a therapist, and sensitive police and medical professionals. The way Hermione handles the situation, the response from others, and her relationship with her boyfriend and teammates would make great fodder for discussions on healthy relationships and consent.

Healthy Relationships in Young Adult Literature

As useful as it is to discuss books that contain depictions of teen dating violence, equally important are books that depict healthy teen relationships. These novels have positive examples of consent and teen couples who communicate with each other and respect one another.

I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

Skylar has grown up poor, but her artistic ability and hard work have won her a scholarship to art school in San Francisco, if she can just survive the summer in her small town. But when her single mom loses her job and falls apart, and Josh, a former co-worker and crush, comes back from Afghanistan missing a leg, she struggles with leaving everyone behind. When her and Josh do decide to have sex, they talk not only about the physical aspects, but also the emotional entanglements before taking their relationship to that level.

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

Samantha and Jase have to keep their relationship a secret, since Samantha’s mother disapproves of Jase and his family, but with each other, they are very open and communicative about when they are ready to become physically involved.

Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller

When Callie returns to her childhood home after years on the run with her mother, she struggles to navigate the unfamiliar terrain of loving, supporting family. After years of interactions with boys that make her feel empty and used, she doesn’t know what to made of a boy who makes her feel cherished and wants to give her pleasure, especially when her family would disapprove of the match. While her relationship with Alex isn’t a silver bullet to solve all of her issues, it does help her learn to trust people.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily m. danforth (2013 Morris Award Honor Book)

When she first becomes friend with beautiful blonde cowgirl Coley, Cameron knows she’s gay. As she realizes she has romantic feelings for her, she pursues her cautiously, since Coley has a boyfriend. When they do become intimate, Cameron makes sure that Coley wants it every step of the way.

 

We’ll also share nonfiction resources on this topic, and at YALSAblog, there’s a post on ideas to partner with other community organizations to provide programs on teen dating violence prevention, consent, and healthy relationships for and with teens.

 

— Molly Wetta, currently reading More Happy than Not by Adam Silvera for The Hub’s Reading Challenge

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YALSA’s The Hub 2016 Reading Challenge Begins!

Mon, 01/25/2016 - 07:00

It’s time to kickoff the 2016 Hub reading challenge! This challenge is intended to encourage librarians, library workers, and YA lit enthusiasts to dive into the award winner and honor books and YALSA selected lists with the hope of providing excellent readers’ advisory and even discovering a new favorite title or exploring a genre outside of your comfort zone.

Eligible books are the YA titles that were named winners or honor titles the following award and selected lists:

This year, based on feedback, we’ve expanded the eligible list of titles to include all YA literature recognized by any ALA division, including:

The titles are compiled into a this list[pdf].

How to Participate

  • Declare your intentions in a comments on this post.
  • Read 25 of the selected titles to complete the challenge, or the entire list to conquer it.
  • If you’re going to be tracking what you read/listen to on your blog or on Goodreads, LibraryThing, YouTube or some other site, include a link to your blog/shelf/channel/profile in your comment. If you’re not tracking your reading online, keep a list some other way.
  • Make it a social experience! Share your challenge progress and get to know other participants by using the hashtag #hubchallenge on Twitter and Instagram.

  • Every Sunday, we’ll publish a check-in post. Leave a comment to talk about what you’re reading for the challenge. If you’ve reviewed those titles somewhere online, include links to those reviews! Otherwise, let us know what you thought of the books in the comments.
  • There will be an finisher form embedded in each check-in post, so once you’re done with the challenge, fill out the form with your name and contact information. This is how you’ll receive your Finisher’s Badge, how you’ll be contacted about your reader’s response, and how you’ll be entered into the drawing for our grand prize. Please fill out the form only once.
  • If you’ve conquered the challenge, let us know in the comments and we’ll send you your Conqueror’s Badge.

Challenge rewards

Beyond experiencing the best of the best that YA lit has to offer, everyone who finishes the challenge will be invited to submit a response to a book they read for the challenge. The response can be text, graphics, audio, video and will be published on The Hub. Furthermore, everyone who finishes the challenge will be entered into a random drawing for our grand prize: a YALSA tote bag full of 2015 and 2016 YA lit! (If the winner is a teacher or librarian or something similar, we’ll also include a few professional development titles.)

Guidelines

  • Format matters: a title that has been recognized for both the print version and the audiobook version can be both read and listened to and count as two books, but a book that has won multiple awards or appears on multiple lists in the same format only counts as one title.
  • Books must be read/listened to (both begun and finished) since the award winners and selected lists have been released and 11:59pm EST on June 23. If you’ve already read/listened to a title, you must re-read/listen to it for it to count. The only exception is for titles you read for the Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge; whether or not you finished that challenge, you may count that reading toward your 25 titles.
  • Just about everyone who doesn’t work for ALA is eligible to participate. Non-ALA/YALSA members are eligible. Teens are eligible. Non-US residents/citizens are eligible. (More eligibility questions? Leave a comment or email us.)
  • Once you finish the challenge, we’ll contact you with details about creating and publishing your response.
  • The grand prize winner will be selected by 11:59pm EST on June 23. The winner will be notified via email.

If you have any questions or problems, let us know in the comments or via email. Happy reading! 

The post YALSA’s The Hub 2016 Reading Challenge Begins! appeared first on The Hub.

2016 Morris Award Finalists: An Interview with Anna-Marie McLemore

Mon, 01/25/2016 - 07:00

Anna-Marie McLemore is a finalist for the 2016 William C. Morris YA Debut Award, which was presented at the ALA Midwinter Youth Media Awards. A full announcement of all of the titles and authors honored at the 2016 YMA’s can be found here.

The Weight of Feathers, follows two young people struggling to define themselves and their place in the larger world, and within their own families. Cluck Corbeau belongs to a family of former tightrope walkers, who now perform in a traveling act that scales the tallest trees, while Lace Paloma is the youngest performer in her family’s long-running mermaid show. When the two families set up in the same town, the long-simmering feud between them threatens to boil over, even as Lace and Cluck are drawn closer together.

Congratulations on your beautiful first novel, The Weight of Feathers, and on being selected as a Finalist for the William C. Morris Award for debut authors!

Thank you so much! I’m so honored to be among these women and their books I so deeply admire, and I’m so grateful to the Morris Committee. I’m thrilled I got to meet both authors and committee members at Midwinter!

The novel follows two families with very distinctly and richly-observed cultural heritages, while also exploring the developing individuality of the two main protagonists within and, in some instances, in direct opposition to, those families. Can you speak a little about this tension between belonging and standing apart?

Speaking from my own experience, when you grow up in a big, closely knit family, they’re your world. Especially when you share a culture that might be underrepresented or marginalized where you live. The upside of that is the sense of community. But—and this can be good or it can detrimental—what they believe about you is often what you believe about yourself. Cluck thinks he deserves to be shunned because it’s what almost everyone around him believes. Lace accepts that her body should be different than it is because she and her cousins measure themselves by their older relatives’ opinions. The things our families teach us may not be what we believe throughout our lives, but they stay with us even as we define who we are. If we can, we hold onto our heritage, the things we want to go with us, while leaving behind what weighs us down.

I’ve read that you met with a Romani scholar to help research Cluck’s family and background; how did you approach researching and writing about a cultural heritage beyond the ones you have been personally immersed in? 

My personal reasons for wanting to write Romani characters is a long story for another time, but part of why I thought it was important is because there are so many misconceptions about Romani people, especially in this country. Many people don’t know that the word “gypsy” is a slur; it doesn’t mean someone who likes to travel. Even fewer seem to realize that “gypped” is a slur too. And many people don’t know the history of persecution Romani people have faced. I don’t have Romani heritage, so making sure I was being as respectful and accurate as I could meant doing my research, including talking with an authority from the community.

My hope is that I learned not only enough to write a Romani family, but enough to be an ally. Though I’m not Romani, as a Latina, I do know how much it hurts to have my heritage appropriated, to have the story of my culture warped, so I want to be an ally in preventing that in any way I can.

One of the most important things I learned from the scholar I talked with is that there’s so often more cultural overlap than we think. I was surprised to learn how much Romani tradition has in common with my heritage. Those moments helped fuel this story. They helped me find its heart and its truth.

I loved getting to know an intergenerational cast of characters, and seeing the impact of revered older family members on our young protagonists – did you know from the outset that this would be a YA novel? 

I’ve been a longtime fan of YA, but I didn’t specifically set out to write a YA novel. But I’m not surprised the book turned out to be one. Part of me will always be seventeen; so many of the decisions I made that defined my life I made when I was a teen.  

One of my very favorite elements of The Weight of Feathers was the behind-the-scenes perspective on some really unique and mesmerizing performance arts; I especially loved the embedded, site-specific nature of each family’s performances, which took the fantasy of live theater beyond a proscenium stage setting and placed it firmly in natural environments which held their own significance and history for each family and for the story. What sort of research and personal experiences did you draw on to inform these other-worldly performances and their various components? 

I spent a lot of my teen years in theaters—sometimes acting, sometimes dancing, sometimes working behind the scenes. And getting to carry that sense of performance into the landscapes I’d fallen in love with growing up was one of my favorite parts of writing this story. But I knew I’d need help portraying character performers—actors who stay in character while interacting with the audience—so I consulted with a seasoned performer who both swims as a mermaid and plays characters on land. She’s a pro at inhabiting a persona. She’s even invented her own dialect of mermish! That idea of falling completely into a character is as essential to that sense of magic as any costume.

I’ve heard you have your own mermaid tale, can you share with our readers a little about it? 

I’ve pretty much wanted to be a mermaid since I was three, so I love wearing my tail whenever I can! How about I show it to you? 

 

Can you tell us what you’re working on these days? 

My next book, WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS, is slated for this fall; I’m thrilled to keep working with the wonderful team at Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press! MOON follows new characters through a story that, like TWOF, has multicultural elements and magical realism, but also has central LGBT themes—a transgender boy, the girl who’s been his best friend for more than a decade, and both of them deciding how they want to define themselves.  

And finally, what were your own favorite books when you were a teenager, and what are you reading these days? 

Three of the books that made me a reader: Nella Larsen’s Passing, Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate, and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince. As for what I’m reading these days, I’m so excited about the books that came home with me from ALA Midwinter! I feel so lucky to get an early read of some of the 2016 books I’ve been looking forward to!

Thank you so much for your time, and for the magical emotional journey of The Weight of Feathers! We at The Hub are so excited to read When the Moon Was Ours later this year!

Thank you so much for your kind words, and for having me on The Hub!

– Interview conducted by Carly Pansulla, currently reading The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante

The post 2016 Morris Award Finalists: An Interview with Anna-Marie McLemore appeared first on The Hub.

What Would Carl from the Walking Dead Read?

Fri, 01/22/2016 - 10:00

“Yeah I like it here.  I like the people.  But they’re weak.  And I don’t want us to get weak too.” Carl Grimes from the AMC television show The Walking Dead is one of the toughest teen characters I have ever seen.  He has grown up in a world of chaos and woe ever since he was a young lad.  He has survived some of the most horrifying zombies or “walkers” as he would call them and lost his own after she gave birth to his baby sister and he had to be the one to make sure she didn’t turn into a zombie.

Carl can really take care of himself, even though he can give into his childish cravings and love for chocolate puddings every once in a while.  He understands the depravity of the world that he lives in and he is never afraid to take charge in chaotic situations.  His dad Rick should be proud that Carl has transitioned so well in such a wild and unruly world.  Carl should be proud of himself for learning how to shoot a gun and knock out as many “walkers” as he can.  Way to go Carl!  If Carl walked into my library right now what books would I recommend to him?  Let’s see, I think I have a few he will really like.

Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks

Now I don’t really think that Carl needs this book, but I do think he would get a big kick out of reading it.  He might think that some of the tips that Brooks offers would be helpful in the world that has been stricken by the zombie apocalypse.

This unique survival guide offers helpful tips such as weapons and combat techniques, places to stay safe, and how to survive a zombie-infested world.  Did you know that if properly cared for the human body can be the best weapon of all?  More importantly, the chapter on how the zombie virus is spread may make the average reader squeamish, but not Carl he will understand the treatment for an infected bite is usually amputation.  There are also references to the different kinds of zombies like voodoo, movie zombies, and the deadly incurable virus zombies.

Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Not everyone loves Catcher in the Rye, but I think that Carl definitely would.  He would think that Holden Caulfield is an outcast with a funny sense of humor.  Carl knows about being an outcast because he tends to come on really strong and when he meets other teens he’s has a hard time connecting with them. It’s probably because he’s a gunslinging teen who has no qualms about protecting his family at all costs.  Holden has an adventurous and quality that Carl would enjoy as well.  Catcher in the Rye is a coming of age story that shows that as you grow up you lose your innocence and that is the main thing that Holden and Carl have in common.

Hellhole by Gina Damico

I think Carl would love this one!  It’s about a geeky guy named Max who has a passion for getting dirty and digging for fossils.  One day when he is digging away Max accidentally opens up a pit to hell and out pops a devil.  Now that sounds just about as scary as dealing with zombies.  Funny enough, the devil likes to eat junk food, play video games, and watch reality t.v. so Max feels like he has to get rid of this guy because things are going to get really bad.  I think Carl would like the clever way that Max and his friend Lore work together to try and rid the world of the houseguest from Hell.

Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry

I bet you are thinking that Carl wouldn’t want to read a zombie story, but I think he would.  Rot & Ruin has great characters like Benny Imura and his brother Tom the ninja style cool dude that takes out zombies in a zen way.  Plus you know that Carl would love to hear how Benny made “carpet coats” to keep from being bitten by a zombie or how he made a horrible death smelling cologne and actually wore it to keep the zombies away.  Let’s face it, Maberry came up with some great ways to survive during the zombie apocalypse.

 

I also think that Carl would really enjoy watching the Game of Thrones series.  He totally knows what it’s like to get attached to someone only to have them to be killed off.  Carl would especially like Aria Stark because she is a lot like him.  She knows how to fight and is very clever and she continues to survive in a world that where everyone is trying to kill her.  If Carl could get some electricity I think he would binge watch the heck out of GOT!

What books would you recommend to Carl? Share in the comments! 

— Kimberli Buckley, currently reading The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds

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Is This Just Fantasy? : The Chosen One

Fri, 01/22/2016 - 07:00
If you read even a moderate amount of fantasy, you are likely familiar with one of its most common tropes: the chosen one, also known as the fated savior or destined heroine.  While there are many different types of fantasy being written and read today, certain patterns repeat frequently and the ‘chosen one’ trope is no exception.  This trope usually involves the inclusion of a character (usually the protagonist) who has in some way been marked as especially gifted or otherwise uniquely equipped to complete a special mission.   Whether they’ve been chosen by a deity, a prophecy, or circumstances of birth, chosen ones in fantasy tales must often complete quests, battle evil forces, and make difficult, pivotal choices in order to achieve their destinies.  This particular trope is far from limited to fantasy literature–it shows up in all kinds of science fiction and fantasy media and the template is often connected to mythologist Joseph Campbell’s concept of the monomyth or hero’s journey.

 

As a longtime fantasy fan, I find the ‘chosen one’ trope can be a double-edged sword for the genre.  On one hand, any popular pattern becomes stale after a while and stories that depend heavily on the ‘chosen one’ narrative can easily fall into traps of lazy plotting or derivative content.  ‘Chosen one’ stories can include protagonists who are unbelievably talented or inhumanly heroic.  These characters often react in their ‘chosen’ status in predictable ways, usually resisting or attempting to escape or avoid their destinies.  However, this trope has remained prevalent for a reason, especially in fantasy for and about teenage characters.  After all, it’s a narrative that investigates the difficult process of coming to understand one’s role in the larger world and battling with the frightening concept of a future–struggles common to adolescents even without magical prophecies hanging over their heads.

Sometime a character’s chosen one status is known and clearly established from birth.  In Rae Carson’s The Girl of Fire & Thorns (2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults Top Ten; 2012 Morris Award Finalist) Princess Elisa, born with a blue gem in her navel, has been marked for a great destiny all her life.  As the bearer of the Godstone, Elisa appears fated to fulfill a prophecy and as a princess, she is bound to marry and live to the benefit of her kingdom.

On her sixteenth birthday, Elisa is secretly married off to a neighboring king who hopes that her destiny might be to help him hold together a nation on the brink of civil war.  But Elisa soon discovers she is far from a helpless pawn in the hands of fate.  Similarly, in Garth Nix’s Sabriel, the title character grown up aware of  ‘chosen one’ status.  Sabriel knows she is expected to become the Abhorsen, a necromancer working to protect the living from the dead, and, despite obstacles, she embraces her destined role.

However, some fantasy novels go a slightly different route, pairing the ‘chosen one’ narrative with another, related plot pattern: the protagonist’s discovery of their unique abilities and accompanying membership in separate, magical society.  The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper (2012 Margaret A. Edwards Award) stands out in my reading memories as an early example.  Will Cooper turns eleven and discovers that he is no ordinary English boy–he is, in fact, one of the Old Ones, a select group of time-traveling immortals placed on Earth to fight the Dark.  Will is not only part of a special group, he has an individual and highly important mission that will effect both his non-magical and magical worlds.

Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older (2016 Best Fiction for Young Adults Top Ten) is a recent, excellent example of this variation on the chosen one narrative. Sierra Santiago had plans to spend her summer hanging out with friends, working on her graffiti murals, and generally relaxing in her Brooklyn neighborhood.  But then as murals begin to weep and her abuelo repeats a mysterious message over and over, Sierra discovers that she comes from a line of shadowshapers, individuals who use artistic abilities to connect with spirits.  Now, it’s up to Sierra to reclaim her heritage and protect her family–and world–from an outsider abusing their unique abilities.

And, of course, no discussion of either this trend would be complete without a mention of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, possibly the highest profile ‘chosen one’ in children’s and young adult fantasy today.  When he enters the magical world, Harry learns that he is not only a wizard–he is also a hero marked by prophecy and past events as the world’s greatest hope–and savior.  While this series stays true to many ‘chosen one’ tropes, it also grapples with the connections between the seemingly opposed concepts of destiny and human choices.

Recently, Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On (2016 Best Fiction for Young Adults) and Patrick Ness’ The Rest of Us Just Live Here (2016 Best Fiction for Young Adults) both offer explicit commentary on the ‘chosen one’ trope.  Carry On follows Simon Snow, who seems to be the Greatest Mage described in a well-known prophecy, as he, his friends, and his roommate/nemesis Baz investigate the magic-eating monster wearing Simon’s face.  As Rowell has made clear in interviews, she wanted to explore questions raised by ‘chosen one’ stories.  What is it like to be a seemingly untalented ‘chosen one’? How would the chosen one’s friends feel?  How much of a prophesied hero’s future is fate–and how much is expectation or manipulation? The result is novel that celebrates and stretches the trope.

 In The Rest of Us Just Live Here, Patrick Ness explores a particular question inspired by the popularity of ‘chosen one’ stories: What is it like to be ordinary in a world full of extraordinary heroes? For Mikey, who is definitely not chosen for any special fate but simply wants to survive high school, the experience has so far been primarily frustrating, especially when he and his friends have enough normal problems to face without adding zombie deer or dark immortals to the mix.

What are your favorite fantasies that feature or respond to the ‘chosen one’ trope? Are you still interested in stories about destiny or are you completely burnt on a fated heroics?

— Kelly Dickinson, currently reading What We Left Behind by Robin Talley

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Check This Out: Libraries in YA Lit

Wed, 01/20/2016 - 07:00

I think it’s safe to say that we here at The Hub – and all of you, of course – are avid lovers of books and libraries. I remember how my grandmother was my first introduction to the glories of the public library. She would take me to story hour each and every week, sometimes multiple times if the theme was great. She always let me check out whatever I wanted and encouraged me to read voraciously. She never seemed to care if I checked out 25 books, read through them in three days, and begged to go to the library again.

As I got older, I began to develop friendships with the librarians. They knew me well enough to offer reading recommendations and cared enough to check up on my life. The children’s librarian was kind enough to stoke my thirst for knowledge and learning by letting me help with program setup and execution, giving me my first glimpses behind the scenes. I completed volunteer hours and job shadowing there to meet high school requirements. The library was my safe space, a comforting haven. It was in my childhood that I first dreamed of growing up and becoming a librarian.

Even today, the first thing I do after I move to a new city is to scope out the public library and get a library card. And now that I have a library degree myself, I not only understand the magic of a public library, I also grasp the vital role that libraries play in the community. Institutions of knowledge and learning, committed to freedom of thought and expression, stalwarts against censorship, advocates for the public. I’m very passionate about libraries and the importance they play in our society. But sometimes they also just make a darn good setting for a fictional yarn, so today I wanted to bring you some great books for a YA audience that feature a prominent library setting.

Thief of Lies by Brenda Drake

Remember the movie Jumper? This is sort of like that, except libraries. While examining a book of world libraries, Gia somehow manages to transport herself and her friends to a library in Paris, France. Immediately they run into trouble and are rescued by Arik, the boy whose disappearance from the Boston Athenaeum Gia was investigating in the first place. Along with his Sentinels, Arik is busy protecting book gateways from creatures that would do harm. Add an exiled wizard, a dash of romance, and a host of beautiful libraries, and Thief of Lies hits several sweet spots. Thief of Lies is the first in a new series, but hopefully the wait time between books won’t be too intolerable.

Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

Imagine a world in which the great Alexandria Library not only survived, but thrived. Except things have gone bad, really bad. Sure, the Great Library can use the power of alchemy to deliver history’s greatest works instantly. Sure, the Library has a presence in every major city. But sometimes that isn’t a good thing. Turns out, the Library is controlling the flow of information to the masses. Personal book ownership is forbidden. There is a thriving but dangerous black market for books. In the middle of all this is Jess, sent by his family to enter Library training as a spy. He soon finds out that those who control the Library value information over human lives and will stop at nothing to preserve their vision.

Library Wars by Kiiro Yumi/Hiro Arikawa/Kinami Watabe (2011 Great Graphic Novels for Teens)

For manga lovers, this series about books and libraries just might hit the spot. In a near future where the federal government creates a committee to rid society of all media of which they don’t approve, libraries and local governments fight back and create a military force called the Library Defense Force. The series focuses on Iku Kasahara, who has dreamed of joining the force since one of its members intervened to protect her favorite book from being confiscated in a bookstore. But it isn’t always the romantic, noble job she imagined, from tough drill instructors to major screw-ups that could have real consequences!

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein

Okay, technically this one is more of a children’s book, but for middle-grade tween readers, this could be a hit! Kyle Keeley loves to play games – video games, board games, word games. His hero is Luigi Lemoncello, world-renowned game creator. So when Luigi Lemoncello returns to his hometown of Alexandriaville to erect a new, technology-forward public library, Kyle is stoked to grab one of 12 spots that will allow him to be one of the first to see (and spend the night in) the new library. But when morning comes, the exit remains locked, and Kyle and friends must compete in a new sort of game to escape the library. This is a super fun, smart book that encourages lifelong learning and a passion for books and libraries!

Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen (2015 Best Fiction for Young Adults)

Cynthia’s friend Annie loves the new librarian. He’s young, hot, and wants Annie to be a library monitor. But Cynthia doesn’t understand the new librarian’s appeal. To her, Mr. Gabriel is creepy and gives off an unsettling aura. Her worst fears come true when she learns that Mr. Gabriel is actually a demon. So now she has to deal with all the normal, everyday stresses of school while also trying to stop a demon from sucking the life force out of her fellow students. Part horror, part romance, all libraries, this is the perfect read for someone who wants something a little out of the ordinary.

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (2003 Alex Awards)

This is an adult book with plenty of crossover appeal. In an alternate version of Great Britain in the 1980s, the world looks pretty surreal. Time travel is real, dodos exist, and literature is taken seriously. Very seriously. Enter Thursday Next, a detective with the Special Ops Literary Division. Her days are filled with cases of forgery, arguments over Shakespeare’s true identity, and the occasional aunt who gets lost in a Wordsworth poem. But when literary characters are kidnapped from their tales, she must take the case to restore honor and great literature to society. Quirky and fun, this series plays with literature like no other. And yes, I promise there’s a fantastic library involved!

–Jancee Wright, currently reading Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

 

 

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Know Your Value: Why Peggy Carter Is My Favorite Superhero

Wed, 01/20/2016 - 07:00

One of the things I have been most looking forward to about 2016 is the return of Marvel’s Agent Carter for its second season. When I immersed myself in comics in preparation for 2015’s summer reading program, I immediately fell in love with the Marvel universe in general, and with Agent Peggy Carter, portrayed by Hayley Atwell, in particular. I enjoyed her character in the two Captain America movies, as well as her cameos in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man, and Agents of SHIELD, but as the titular character in Agent Carter, she truly shines. Far from being just a romantic interest for Captain America, Agent Carter is a superhero in her own right, and quickly became one of my favorite fictional role models.

The first season of Agent Carter finds Peggy living and working in New York in 1946. Although World War II has wrought great changes in America, Peggy Carter is still a woman working in a male-dominated profession in a man’s world.  Well-respected by her colleagues during the war, she has trouble finding that respect in the post-war world.  However, as much as she longs to be accepted by her coworkers, Peggy would rather earn their respect than have it handed to her.  In fact, when one colleague demands that another apologize for disrespecting Peggy, she asks him not to defend her.  Later, during an argument with her partner-in-crime, Edwin Jarvis, Jarvis taunts her by asking whether she honestly expects her coworkers to change their minds about her.  Peggy never misses a beat before responding, “I expect I will make them.”  And while others might see a need to forsake femininity in Peggy’s workplace, Agent Carter uses her womanly wiles to her advantage as often as they work against her, for example, in seducing a man to gain access to a formula for a dangerous chemical, with the help of her sedative-laced lipstick. 

Throughout the series, Peggy shows herself to be comfortable in almost any situation. She is one of the girls with her housemates, joking with her roommate and commiserating with her neighbors over communal meals. Likewise, on a mission that unites her current colleagues from the Strategic Scientific Reserve with her former comrades, the Howling Commandos, she is able to hold the combined unit together under fire, taking the lead when the mission takes an unexpected, potentially disastrous, turn. With firsthand knowledge of Peggy’s war record, the Commandos automatically look to her as a leader. During this particular mission, even the most taciturn of Peggy’s SSR cohorts begins to see her in a new light as she draws him out and does not judge him, even when he spills the secret that has weighed him down since he came home from the war. At the end of that episode, he invites her along with the others for a celebratory drink. Not only is Peggy one of the girls; she is also one of the guys.

Over the course of the series, it becomes apparent that the war affected each character in different ways, physical or emotional. Peggy is no different in this respect; she makes it clear that Steve Rogers was the love of her life, and they never even got to go on a date before Steve went missing. She occasionally grieves openly for him, but she is by no means ruled by her grief. Instead, Steve becomes her ideal. His character is the standard to which she holds herself, and, though never one to suffer fools gladly, Peggy is at her most heated when others cause her to lose sight of that standard, even going so far as to slap one of her closest friends across the face in anger. Just as Steve was a protector of his country, Peggy isn’t afraid to throw her weight around in defense of people who are being mistreated, whether they are prisoners of a Russian terror group or the waitress at the local automat.

Perhaps the thing that I love most about Peggy Carter, though, is that her character is one that I can really relate to and see as a role model for both my teen patrons and myself. Though she has trouble finding herself in post-war America, at the end of the day, Peggy finds strength that she didn’t realize she had.   Once the day is saved, another agent is given credit for her work, but as Peggy says, “I don’t need Agent Thompson’s approval, or the President’s. I know my value. No one else’s opinion really matters.” Knowing one’s own value is important in our world. Agent Carter is a character whose confidence and sense of the right I try to emulate in both my personal and professional life, and I hope that my teens are picking up on that lesson both from the show and from me.

Agent Carter airs Tuesday nights at 9:00 PM Eastern on ABC.

— Elizabeth Norton, currently watching Agent Carter

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Fandom 101: Agent Carter

Tue, 01/19/2016 - 07:00

Whether you are a Marvel fan or not, you may well have heard about the ABC TV show Agent Carter. Peggy Carter originally appeared in comics as early as 1966, when she was shown as Captain America’s (aka Steve Roger’s) love interest, and she similarly appeared as Steve’s foil in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first Captain America movie in 2011. Based on the popularity of Hayley Atwell’s embodiment of the character in that movie, Marvel decided to develop a series following her exploits after World War II, which debuted in January of 2015. Originally conceived of as a one-time miniseries, the show proved popular with fans (and particularly on Tumblr) and is returning tonight for its second season in large part due to this fan support.

Whew! So that is the 30 second summary of Peggy Carter as a character, but what are some of the reasons why she has captured the imagination of Marvel fans? Well, there are several reasons. Peggy is a great character who is strong and faces period-accurate professional discrimination and sexism throughout her exploits but still manages to persevere. She cannot only hold her own in a physical altercation, but is also skilled at facing down colleagues who belittle her abilities or doubt that a woman can make a difference. She is always ready with the perfect bon mot or cutting rejoinder, perhaps most famously when she responded to her colleagues’ doubts about her by saying: “I know my value. Anyone else’s opinion doesn’t really matter.” Particularly as played by Hayley Atwell, this makes Peggy Carter a relatable and yet inspiring figure.

Though the strength of her character is an important part of her popularity, it is safe to assume that another big part of her popularity is the stylish look of the show and, in particular, Carter’s clothing. When the first season debuted last year, fans were quick to track down her retro-style and very striking red lipstick and many fans started to cosplay using her iconic red fedora and blue suit. Though Carter’s costumes particularly jump out throughout the show, every character is clothed in a way that highlights the post-war style and pulls the viewer into Peggy Carter’s world. Given all of these elements, it is hardly surprising that the show quickly developed a strong following.

Having said all of that, as with far too many media properties, Agent Carter is not without its issues. Many fans were particularly distressed by the show’s lack of diversity, something that was at times glaring given that the show was set in New York City in the post-World War II era. As the second season starts, many will be watching to see whether the creative team has responded to this critique.

Given the popularity of this character, what can libraries do to appeal to fans of Agent Carter? As a first step, if you want to learn more about the character, check out the Marvel Wiki and the Marvel Cinematic Universe Wiki, for additional biographical details about the character both in print and on screen.

You can also add some Peggy Carter-centric comics to your library’s collection to appeal to fans of the show. Though Peggy has appeared many times since her debut, here are some good options to start to add her to your comic collection:

Operation S.I.N.: Agent Carter – This book follows Peggy Carter and Howard Stark (Tony Stark’s father) as they team up to track down a new alien energy source and ensure that it does not fall into the wrong hands.

House of M – This 2005 series takes place in an alternate universe where Steve Rogers is never frozen and instead ends up marrying Peggy Carter. It is an interesting alternate take on the world, particularly for those who are fans of Steve and Peggy’s relationship.

Captain America: Peggy Carter Agent of Shield – This volume from 2014 collects stories of Peggy’s espionage career during World War II and is perfect for readers who want to fill in more of her background before the show.

Along with these Peggy Carter-related books, Agent Carter offers some great options for creating tie-in exhibits and reading lists on the actual history of these periods. These displays and lists can be particularly helpful to fill in the aspects of this time period that aren’t covered in the show or to highlight the diversity of the period that was missing in the first season of the show.

Whether you want to start watching Agent Carter as the new season debuts or just want to better understand the fans who stop by your library, I hope this information will be of use! If I missed anything important (or if you just want to share your love of the show) let me know in the comments!

– Carli Spina, currently reading Lost Stars by Claudia Gray

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Crossovers: When Is It Rape?

Tue, 01/19/2016 - 07:00

The girls says she didn’t want to have sex. The guys says she was all over him. The girl says she was drugged. The guy says she was drinking heavy all night. Maybe there is evidence that the girl had sex with the guy, or maybe there isn’t. She says rape, he says no way. Who is right?

Popular nonfiction author Jon Krakauer investigates the issue in Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town.  Missoula is home to the University of Montana, devoted to their Grizzly football team. Thus Krakauer weaves the magical protection afforded to football players who are accused of rape. The stories of two college girls who name football players as their rapists form the main narrative threads of the book. It would be a cautionary tale for the college-bound, but the lessons remain clouded by the biases of the media and the college’s investment in its football team. Obvious important issues, such as the ability to give consent when semi-conscious, are brushed aside with some variation of, “She asked for it.”

Laurie Halse Anderson dives into the painful emotional aftermath of rape in her 1999 debut novel, Speak. High school freshman Melinda is rolled inside herself after she is raped by a popular older boy at a summer party. Her immediate instinct – call the police – resulted in the party’s break-up. While everyone knows that Melinda called the police, they believe it was to purposefully end the party. Melinda herself is so traumatized that she can’t even speak. Anderson’s deeply moving and disturbing novel won her accolades, winning one of the very first Printz Honor Book awards in 2000. Through Melinda, readers learn that the validity of a rape claim is too often judged by the accuser’s physical attractiveness and social standing. A hot and popular guy would not need to have sex with a lowly freshman, thus her accusation must be based on Melinda’s own wishful thinking.

A recent novel published for adults considers the potential for long-term consequences of rape. The Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll introduces the somewhat despicable Ani when she is twenty-eight years old. An unapologetic snob, Ani is all about appearances; impressive job, expensive clothes, and a desirable, rich fiance. Readers quickly realize that Ani is compensating for her internal torment, a sense of worthlessness tied to events in youth. In alternating chapters, Ani returns to her fourteen-year-old self, attending a prestigious high school where she attempts to fit in with the popular crowd. It is not a happy time. The novel is dark, dealing with damaged sexuality in ways that many teen readers would find disturbing. But it clearly illustrates the trauma of rape as it may resonate throughout a victim’s life.

A new nonfiction book tackles the issue of rape with straightforward language and well-researched facts. Kate Harding’s Asking for It: The alarming rise of rape culture – and what we can do about it argues that in present day America the burden of proof still lies heavily on the victim. The reports of victims are scrutinized, and readily dismissed with irrelevant information, such as former sexual behavior or the social value of the accused. Presumably reasonable people still think of “assault rape” as true rape, while “date rape” is generally just morning-after regret. Harding’s strong voice will inspire some and anger others, but there is no denying the timeliness of her work.

— Diane Colson, currently reading Fives and Twenty-Fives by Michael Pitre

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Anime for Book Lovers: More in the Manga

Mon, 01/18/2016 - 07:00

Just like any book-to-movie, or comic book-to-movie, adaptation the manga version of an anime will often have tons material that didn’t make it to the screen. Some anime act like an alternate dimension, missing characters and straying wildly from the original plot, others will start off in the same place as the books, and then end up in a radically different spot. Occasionally, when you are very lucky, a manga series will keep going past the last episode of a series. This means that you get all new story lines and character arcs, and is a beautiful thing if you have become attached to the characters (I am looking at YOU Kimi Ni Todoke). The three titles explored below are extremely popular shows that fall in to the last category. Enjoy!

Ouran High School Host Club

(Comedy/Romance)

  • Manga by Bisco Hatori (18 Volumes) Completed
  • Anime (Season One- 26 Episodes) Completed

Ouran Academy is a private school where students from super rich families kill time by participating in a series of fabulous and extravagant club activities. Allegedly they also attend classes, but little of that shows up on screen. Scholarship student Haruhi breaks one club’s expensive vase while looking for a quiet place to study. Now Haruhi must work for the Host Club to pay back the cost of the item… but what exactly do they do?

Costume changes and shenanigans, romantic and otherwise, abound in this classic comedy anime. It only ran for a single season back in 2012, but the twenty six episodes have lived in anime fans’ hearts forevermore.  The differences between the anime vs. the manga start off fairly mild, with extra scenes sprinkled throughout the first few volumes, but the end of the manga run has tons of new material on all your favorite characters. More Tamaki, more Haruhi, and a whole alternate ending! 

Kimi ni Todoke – From Me To You 

(Slice of Life/Romance)

  • Manga by Karuho Shiina (25 Volumes) Ongoing
  • Anime (Season One- 25 Episodes, Season Two- 12 Episodes) Completed

Sawako Kuronuma’s big goal is to finally make friends this school year. This will be tough because in addition to being super awkward she looks just like the ghost from “The Ring!” It is hard to make friends when everyone thinks you can curse them. Then the effortlessly popular and handsome Shota Kazehaya starts paying attention to her. Is he interested in something more? Things start to look up on the friend front after her class’s assigned seating is reshuffled. Will she be able to make friends with the blunt Chizuru Yoshida and the sophisticated Ayane Yano? 

The writing for this High School series is delicate and nuanced. The work is full of funny moments, and Sawako’s new friendships are given as much weight and time as the romantic plot lines. She is a delightful protagonist and getting to see her grow and fall in love is a real treat.  There are two seasons of this series and the anime included almost all of the stories from the Manga up through volume 11. The best part? The manga is still being published! (Volume 25 has a US publication date in Sept 2016)

Attack on Titan – Shingeki no Kyojin

(Science Fiction/Horror)

  • Manga by Hajime Isayama (18 Volumes) Ongoing
  • Anime (Season One- 26 Episodes, Season Two- To Be Announced) Ongoing

For the last hundred years humanity has shut themselves up inside a series of walls as protection from being devoured by the monstrous Titans. In what seems like a coordinated attack, a Colossal Titan breaks through the outer wall, and the monsters swarm through the city, massacring the population. Eren Jaeger, Mikasa Ackerman, and Armin Arlert, along with other survivors of the fall of Wall Maria join up with the military. These troops are humanity’s only hope of survival.

Wall Maria, Wall Rose, Wall Sina

The show is rated TV-MA, and the manga contains the same level of violence. Both are beautiful and bleak with fast paced action sequences. The battles, intense character driven drama, and the high stakes of the setting combine to make a compulsively watchable series.  There is a ton of extra information in the manga (including the identities of the Colossal and Armored Titans), so even though the end of the first season picks up at volume 8 in the manga, I would suggest starting with volume 1 of the original series. 

As if that wasn’t enough, here are is a partial list of the other manga/anime titles that expand the Titan universe:

Before the Fall  is a prequel series

  • Manga (7 Volumes) Ongoing

No Regrets explores the origin story of Levi and Erwin

  • Manga (2 Volumes) Completed
  • Anime adaptation is an Original Video Animation, US release To Be Announced

Attack on Titan: Junior High is a light comedy set in an alternate universe

  • Manga (4 Volumes) Ongoing
  • Anime (12 Episodes) Ongoing

The Harsh Mistress of the City is set after the fall of wall Maria, and focuses on Rita, a young field commander.

  • Manga (2 Volumes) Completed

 

— Jennifer Billingsley, currently reading Skeleton Creek by Patrick Carman

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ALA Midwinter 2016 BFYA Teen Feedback Session

Fri, 01/15/2016 - 10:58

The highlight of my trip to ALA Midwinter was attending the Best Fiction for Young Adults teen feedback session. A diverse group of teens from the Boston area had the opportunity to share their thoughts about titles nominated for the Best Fiction for Young Adults list. Their uncensored, frank and articulate opinions—both positive and negative—were a delight to hear. Here are the highlights!

You can find the final list of top ten Best Fiction for Young Adults here and the full list here.

Favorite Books

Many teens shared gushing, glowing reviews of these books, which I’d say were informally the most popular picks of the teens present.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

“Very realistic, reflects how teens actually think/talk.”

Another reading thought it was “perfectly executed” and loved the mystery of Blue’s identity and the “adorable romance.”

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

“Adorable.”

The book left one reader “feeling breathless.” She liked the unexpected ending and that the main character had everyday problems in addition to her peculiar medical condition.

“sweet and romantic.”

Another reader thought it had an engaging plot and deep complex character relationships. She loved diagrams and drawings.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

“An emotional roller coaster.”

“Sarah J. Maas is a genius. Loved. So many plot twists. Action packed.”

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

“Euphoric, divine reading experience. Tragic and beautiful. Think long and hard, inspired to read and wander.”

“Takes the gold medal for sappy romance.”

Other Positive Feedback

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

One teen liked this book because it “focused on what’s important, not fluff.”

The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds

A young man enjoyed this book. He related to the main character’s struggle after losing a mother figure himself, and as a resident of inner-city Boston, he thought the urban setting was familiar and thought that Reynold’s captured the voice of teens with accurate dialogue.

Kissing Ted Callahan (and Other Guys) by Amy Spalding

One teen liked this because unlike some of the other favorites, it wasn’t too deep or heart-wrenching. It was “delightful and full of laughs” and didn’t take itself too seriously.

My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jessie Warga

A reader remarked that this novel “stays with you”, and while they thought it was a great depiction of depression, didn’t like the novel’s unrealistic happy ending of love “curing” a mental illness.

The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten

This was one reader’s favorite book. The author really understood Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and portrayed it authentically. They loved the relationships, the love story, and the surprising ending.

Game Seven by Paul Volponi

Two young men offered support for this book, saying it was more than just a sports story.

The Kidney Hypothetical (Or How to Ruin Your Life in Seven Days) by Lisa Yee

A reader enjoyed this book because she thought that teens could relate to the pressure to succeed that many high schoolers feel and liked the book’s message of “do what makes you happy.”

Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick

A young woman recommended this book be on the final list. She enjoyed the interconnected stories with the spiral theme and thought the book was “strange, but good.” The characters and world-building felt “real.”

The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutowski

One reader enjoyed this book because she appreciate that Kestral was “strong without having to fight.” The rich prose, complex characters, and political intrigue make it a solid series.

Little Peach by Peggy Kern

Readers applauded this book for tackling a tough topic. It was descriptive without being overly graphic. They cried, and found the book really emotional and the main characters easy to connect to.

Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty by Christine Hepperman

One reader thought this was  really good, even she doesn’t usually read poems. It was nice to see different perspectives on feminist themes.

Playlist for the Dead by Michelle Falkoff

This book got a vote for having a playlist. it was considered an easy quick read.

I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

This got an enthusiastic thumbs up for an unpredictable plot. The setting added to story, and everything was easy to picture. The book was inspiring with well-developed characters.

Read Between the Lines by Jo Knowles 

One teen loved style of interwoven stories and appreciated the theme of how small encounters shaped life.

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

One reader thought this title was really moving and captivating and enjoyed the focus on friendship and family. Another teen thought this was a good book, but perhaps not Dessen’s best.

The Doubt Factory by Paolo Bacigalupi

This title was reviewed positively. The reader liked that characters aren’t definitely good or bad and thought it was cool that one character was casually not heterosexual. Another teen thought it had good commentary on society and commercial products that do harm and liked the “realness” of it.

 

Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough

One young man enjoyed this book, despite be initially skeptical of title and cover. He liked the personification of love and death and thought it should make the list. Another reader found it slow at first, but thought it had a beautiful ending. Another thought it was “beautifully written and great characters.”

The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks

Several teens expressed positive feelings about this book, although one cautioned it was not for those looking for a happy ending. One reader thought it was great but that character felt much younger than sixteen. Another reader commended on the great pacing, and described it as equal parts heart racing and calm. He thought it would appeal to fans of the grotesque and mysteries. IT reminded one teen of Lord of the Flies. He found it engaging and it made him think about survival.

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black 

A couple of readers expressed a range of opinions about this book. One reader thought it was easy to fall into world, couldn’t figure out what would happen, loved the details in description and all the secrets the characters keep from one another. However, another reader found it hard to relate to Hazel. She liked the fantasy elements in a real world setting but thought it had too much focus on small details. Another reader appreciated the romance.

Rook by Sharon Cameron

Adventure, mystery, romance! One reader felt immediately pulled into story and found it hard to put down.  She loved how the relationship between the main characters evolved. Another reader really liked the writing style, and loved the cover and the title.

Mosquitoland by David Arnold 

One reader enjoyed the witty play on words, and enjoyed it as she typically likes “deep books about self discovery and travel.”

Denton Little’s Deathdate by Lance Rubin

A teen thought this book was going to be depressing, but it was laugh out loud funny. Not only was it engaging and plot driven, but the concept was thought provoking.

The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore

A teen liked the Romeo and Juliet retellings and thought it had beautiful writing. She appreciated that the characters were diverse. Overall, it was a sweet, dramatic story and she gave it an “A+”.

Illuminae by Amie Kaufmann and Jay Kristoff

One reader loved the format! She enjoyed getting the story from the machine’s point of view. However, another reader didn’t get to know characters because of format. Couldn’t tell what characters were doing and thought it was boring.

Dime by E.R. Frank

One reader loved the suspenseful plot, liked the structure, and found the story compelling and engaging.

Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

A teen liked the message to see the best in people and trust despite betrayal.  She loved the strong, independent main character who faced many challenges but persevered. The blend of historical and fantasy genres was good.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

One reader loved how characters have back stories and enjoyed the complicated plot. Another loved the cover and black pages and thought title sets tone. Liked tie-in to Grisha without having to read other series.

A Song for Ella Grey by David Almond

This reader doesn’t usually go for romance, but loved the mythology and the friendship and thought the plot was well-balanced.

The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

One teen loved the unique dystopian world, and loved sarcastic AI Talis. She thought the characters had great personalities and the world-building was very detailed.

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh

A reader liked the plot, but thought it was poorly executed because sometimes she didn’t know what was going on and the actions were not always realistic.

Critical Analysis of Books

All the Rage by Courtney Summers

One reader said: “yeeeessshh!” The main character of All the Rage was hard to relate to and unlikable, and one reader thought it sent the wrong message because it took her so long to come forward and disclose what happened to her.

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

A teen thought this was a good topic, but thought the plot was hard to follow. The style was overly simplistic and bland.

Eden West by Pete Hautman

One reader argued that this title shouldn’t make list. The story didn’t go anywhere different than other cult books. Plot and characters were vague and underdeveloped.

Infandous by Elana K. Arnold

Several readers had strong feelings about this book, and did not think it should make the list. They found the jacket copy misleading and the story “traumatizing.” Another reader said there was not enough development, and the story was rushed.

Alex as Well by Alyssa Brugman

A few teens had issues with this book and found it ” rushed and hard to picture” and “confusing.” One reader thought it was a good idea for a book, but not well developed. The writing was too simplistic for the topic.

Breakaway by Kat Spears

This book did not resonate with one reader. They didn’t feel like the relationships were developed, and didn’t care about the characters. They found the blurb misleading and were left feeling unfulfilled after reading.

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes

One reader liked the premise and thought it started well but ultimately fell flat because she wanted more details. The author waited to long to incorporate the past through flashbacks.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

A teen liked the concept but thought the execution fell flat.

I Crawl Through It by A.S. King

One reader thought this was “weirdly abstract.” Another thought it was “too bizarre for me” and couldn’t tell what was real/not real. It was just too “out there” but did make the reader think.

The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle

One reader was so intrigued by description and thought it was a ghost story but it wasn’t. She thought there were too many tangents and couldn’t relate to characters. Another reader didn’t like that the main character falls in love with her stepbrother who she thought was her twin. “Ew.” But another reader thought it was intriguing and beautiful. She enjoyed the suspenseful cliffhangers at end of chapters and liked how it highlights teen’s struggles.

Do you know teens who have had strong opinions about any of the nominated titles? Are you a teen who loved or hated one of the books? Share in the comments!

— Molly Wetta, currently reading The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin

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Diversify YA Life: Diverse Debuts

Fri, 01/15/2016 - 07:00

Who says the little man can’t make waves?  No one in the book business can say it, just ask the We Need Diverse Books movement. With every new year comes new authors and with 2016 we are seeing not only debuts of color but characters of color. Below is a list of YA debut authors of color and books from debuts that feature characters of color.

Debut Authors of Color

Inspired by Indian Mythology, Maya’s future life of love is cursed with death. When Maya is forced to marry for political reasons, her new reign as the queen of Akaran soon becomes marked with magic and mystery.

Seeking a change and a little adventure, Julie travels to New Orleans with her youth group to build houses.  When she doesn’t find the change she so desperately needs with her group, she sets out on her own to discover the city when she meets and falls in love with Miles.

Reshma is a high school senior and has made it her mission in life to get into Stanford. When a literary agents seeks her out to write a novel, Reshma soon realizes that no one wants to read about a boring over achiever so she sets out to live the life of the average teenager.  Reshma discovers that there’s more to life than studying.

In this steampunk debut, Avrilis changes history and saves a life that she shouldn’t have saved and she finds herself a fugitive in two different worlds.

Taylor’s rep goes from ice queen to the girl who gets around when she’s found drunk and in the bed of the school’s bad boy.  In order to reclaim her good rep, she convinces the bad boy to pretend to be her boyfriend and not just another notch on his belt.

 

Joss Byrd is just trying to please a demanding director and an overbearing mother in the glamorous world that is Hollywood.

Latoya Williams is a black girl in an all white school and makes a wish to make her life easier and to be white.  Find out what happens when Latoya’s wish comes true.

Paloma High School is shrouded with rumors of a teacher student relationship and everyone begins to find someone to blame.

Vika and Nikolai are enchanters and they are being sought by the Ottoman Empire for political gain.  In order to find the best enchanters, the Tsar announces a duel where the losers must die.  Vika and Nikolai see this as an opportunity of varied reasons but what will happen when they fall in love knowing that they both can’t survive?

After the murder of Sefia’s parents, she’s sent to live with her aunt until her aunt is taken.  Armed with survival and combat skills, Sefia sets out to find her aunt and the answers surrounding her father’s murder.

 

Debuts with Diverse Characters

LGBTQ

Tristan and Robbie are estranged twins until they are forced to share a room to keep Robbie from hurting himself. Tristan soon discovers that Robbie is gay and is scared to come out in the world of pro hockey.  When Robbie plans to run away with someone he met online, will Tristan turn him in or go with him?

The lives of four teens will be forever changed when a shooter enters their auditorium.

Amanda is the new girl in town and when she meets Grant she must decide if she should share her secret and let him in or push him away.

Riley is gender fluid, the new teen in town, and has a father who is a congressman. On the advise to start a blog to vent, Riley’s blog becomes viral and someone discovers the blog and Riley’s secret.  Riley must decide abandon the blog or come out.

Kaycee’s southern town is all about Friday night football, boyfriends, and being a good girl.  Kaycee has no interest in boys but will she openly date that girl everyone gossips about?

In his rural hometown, a gay teen must decide to openly date the love of his life or remain in the closet.

In this world, cities are run by clocks and if a clock breaks, time stops.  Danny has been sent to fix a clock when he falls in love with the clock spirit.

Diverse Protagonists

Set in Puerto Rico, Isabel is a legend of a girl with green skin and grass for hair. When Lucas’ family moves to town, he wants to believe especially after a heart break. When mysterious letters begin to appear, Lucas believes.

Nix is a member of a four man crew aboard The Temptation-captained by her father.  Captain Slate is fiercely searching for a map from 1868 to go back into time to save his one true love.  Will Nix help him or sabotage his search?

Amani lives in Dustwalk where nothing happens.  When her sharpshooting skills fails to aid in her escape, she finds a wanted stranger to help.

What was Blackbeard, the pirate, like as a teenager?  Blackhearts imagines Blackbeard as a teen as he falls in love with Anne, his father’s bi-racial servant.

Breezy woke up from a shallow grave but that’s impossible because she was murdered.  Not sure what she is, Breezy travels the country looking for murderers until she encounters a church who can answer all her questions.

Diverse Supporting Characters

Hope’s mother has died and her father ships her off to an aunt she’s never met in Scotland.  After only a couple of hours in Scotland, Hope learns that she comes from a family of time travelers and she must help stop their nemesis.

In this reimagination of Sherlock Holmes, Charlotte Holmes is a distant relative of Sherlock and a high school student in America.  James Watson, a distant relative of Dr. John Watson, is student at the same school and Watson and Holmes eventually meet up to solve a murder.

Do you know of any diverse debuts that we missed? Please share in the comments!

— Dawn Abron, currently reading The Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

 

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Throwback Thursday: Weetzie Bat

Thu, 01/14/2016 - 07:00

With dozens of new YA books released each week, it’s easy to get focused on the new and exciting books soon to hit shelves. That doesn’t mean that we want to forget about old favorites or older titles that may be easily overlooked yet could still be a hit with the right reader. Our Throwback Thursday posts will highlight backlist titles, prolific authors, and classics of YA.

My discovery of Weetzie Bat was a bit of a fluke. This past summer, I recall looking up popular and cult books in the 1990s and cross-referencing those titles with my library’s collection. I came across Weetzie Bat and the synopsis intrigued me. I vaguely recalled the title from my teen years, but I had not read it yet. When I placed a request for the title and it arrived at my library, it was surprisingly small and had acid colors on the cover.

Weetzie Bat, written by Francesca Lia Block, was originally published in 1989 and is the first of five books in the Dangerous Angels series. Other titles in the series include: Witch Baby (1991), Cherokee Bat and the Goat Guys (1992), Missing Angel Juan (1993), and Baby Be-Bop (1995).

Weetzie is a quirky girl with a platinum blonde flat top and her best friend is Dirk. Both are searching for love in dream-filled Los Angeles. Weetzie describes her perfect man as My Secret Agent Lover Man and she finds him when Dirk finds Duck, a blond surfer dude. They all live happily ever after in their shared home. Well, sort of.

The surprising part about this story is its breeziness, not only in plot, but with important topics like sexuality, AIDS, and abortion. While the story touches upon these topics, it never comes off as didactic. The story resembles a punk rock fairy tale, just without any saccharin details. You are not entirely sure, though, if Weetzie is a bit shallow since her outlook on these tough topics is without pithiness.

However, I could easily see how the story became a cult classic and helped define the Young Adult genre. As a teen in the 1990s, there weren’t very many books for teens. Mainly, you would either read classic children’s literature or adult books. At my favorite neighborhood bookstore, I recall that the “teen” section was a shelf situated within the children’s area. It is possible that I would have enjoyed this book as a teenager, but I definitely appreciate it as an adult with its magical realism and mature topics. I spent my early years in southern California (yes, technically I’m a Valley Girl), and something about this story reminds me of the late 1980s and early 1990s of my childhood with the descriptions of palm trees and the very California-ness of the plot.

Weetzie Bat still enjoys fictional celebrity status as a style icon according to Rookie Mag. You can check out the article (and fun photos) here. Also, supposedly, the story has been optioned to become a movie that has yet to come out. You can read more about those details on Francesca Lia Block’s website here.

Final thoughts: I recommend this book for readers that like their fiction brief, southern California fairytales, and for those interested in LGBTQ themes.

–Diana Slavinsky, currently listening to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets on audio in her car (though, not writing while driving because that would be dangerous)

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Pairing Music with YA Lit: “My True Love Gave to Me” Edition (Part 2)

Wed, 01/13/2016 - 07:00

Back in December I posted musical pairings for the first six stories of My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories edited by Stephanie Perkins in which YA authors illustrate how the holidays can be a time of first love, caring, and sometimes even a little magic.  As promised, here are songs paired with the last six stories in the collection.

“Krampuslauf” by Holly Black

Summary: At Fairmount’s annual Krampuslauf, an unnamed narrator and her friends, Penny and Wren, decide to confront Roth.  Roth is a “rich kid” who moonlights with Penny even though he already has a girlfriend.  Wren and the main character have had enough of him using their friend.  But when they confront Roth, impulsive Wren ends up inviting him and his preppy friends to a New Year’s Eve party.  And now the girls need to scramble to put one together.

Musical Pairing:  While the main character does find some romance toward the end of the story, more emphasis seems to be on Penny and Roth’s “relationship.”  As such, I chose “Looking Too Closely” by Fink for this short story, because Penny refuses to see Roth’s wrongdoings (The devil’s right there, right there in the details/ And you don’t wanna hurt yourself, hurt yourself/ By looking too closely) and (The truth is like blood underneath your fingernails/ You don’t wanna hurt yourself, hurt yourself/ By looking too closely).  Another great pairing would be “Ghost” by Ella Henderson–especially because Penny can’t see the evidence of Roth’s other, real relationship until it’s right in front of her (I had to go through hell to prove I’m not insane/ Had to meet the devil just to know his name).

 

“What the Hell Have you Done Sophie Roth?” by Gayle Forman

Summary: Sophie Roth has had many “what have you done?” moments as a freshman at U of B (let’s just say it stands for University of “the middle of nowhere”).  As a city girl she stands out in this tiny college in the middle of the country.  In fact she is half expecting Ned Flanders to show himself. But at a Christmas caroling concert, she meets someone who also stands out–Russell.  Russell shares with her the best pie out of town (apple pie with cheddar cheese) and helps her celebrate something she’s missing this holiday at U of B–Hannakah.

Musical Pairing:  Though I’m tempted to pair “Blue Moon” by the Marcels (or another 50’s song that might be a U of B favorite) with this short story, I’m more inclined to pairing it with The Simpsons theme song because Sophie and Russell get together over a shared Ned Flanders joke.

 

“Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus” by Myra McEntire

Summary: Vaughn is the stereotypical class clown/bad kid.  The kind of kid who covers the class rabbit in paste and glitter.  Not that he means to be bad–it just happens.  Years later, as a teen, he accidentally sets the church on fire, destroying all of the pageant props, costumes and the facility itself.  His community service?  Figure out how to keep the pageant going.  But at least he gets to hang out with the Preacher’s daughter, Gracie.

Musical Pairing: When I read this short story, I had a Breakfast Club moment.  Vaughn is misunderstood and rough-around-the-edges; Gracie is the picture perfect preacher’s daughter… or is she? So my song pairing for Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus is: “Don’t You Forget About Me” by Simple Minds.

 

“Welcome to Christmas, CA” by Keirsten White

Summary: Maria lives in Christmas, California.  Not even a real city or town, just a census designated place.  Every day is pretty much the same.  Her mom’s boyfriend drives her to and from school (a 45 minute drive one way).  Then a shift at her mom’s diner, saving every penny to escape the small “census designated place.” But after their cook dies, a new face appears in Christmas: Ben.  And he completely changes the diner’s food, it’s customers… and, of course, Maria’s outlook on Christmas.

Musical Pairing: Maria is always looking for “home.”  She doesn’t really know what that even means until Ben, through his amazing cooking powers, shows her.  The song that immediately struck me was “Feels Like Home” by Chantal Kreviazuk (And if you knew how I wanted someone to come along/ And change my life the way you’ve done/ It feels like home to me, it feels like home to me).

 

“Star of Bethlehem” by Ally Carter

Summary: Fate smiles on Lydia when an Icelandic girl named Hulda needs a ticket to New York.  Lydia quickly switches the tickets not caring where Hulda was really going–turns out: the middle of nowhere.  Perfect.  Lydia slips into Hulda’s life; only Hulda’s pretend boyfriend Ethan, knows that she isn’t the Icelandic girl.  But when Lydia’s secret gets out, she finds that she has a family, and a home, in the small town of Bethlehem.

Musical Pairing: Lydia lets her secret be known through her talent: by singing “O Holy Night” at church.  So my pairings for this short story are “O Holy Night” (the N*Sync a cappella version) and also be “Sing” by Travis (But if you sing, sing, sing, sing, sing, sing/ For the love you bring won’t mean a thing/ Unless you sing, sing, sing, sing).

“The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer” by Laini Taylor

Summary: The Isle of Feathers has a tradition: girls are courted during Advent by suitors leaving small gifts for them on each of the twenty-four days.  Neve is all alone, her best friends having died the year before, but she wants no courtship (even if it would bring her out of poverty).  Unfortunately the evil preacher has his eyes set on her, and won’t let her refuse the courtship. Neve does the only thing she can think: she whispers into the night air… and the Dreamer hears her plea.

Musical Pairing: There is a theme of loneliness throughout this story, so I chose “All by Myself” by Eric Carmen–or Celine Dion if you prefer that version (Hard to be sure/ Sometimes I feel so insecure And love so distant and obscure/ Remains the cure).

Of course, not all of us hear music the same way, just as not all of us see the books we read the same way, so this is my interpretation.  What songs would you pair with these stories?

— Stacy Holbrook, currently reading Undertow by Michael Buckley

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2016 Morris Award Finalists: An Interview with Kelly Loy Gilbert

Tue, 01/12/2016 - 17:42

Kelly Loy Gilbert is a finalist for the 2016 William C. Morris YA Debut Award.

Conviction is the story of Braden, a teen baseball phenom who has to contend with not just his father’s expectations for sports stardom, but his estranged brother, and his looming testimony in his father’s trial for the murder of a police officer.

Kelly, congratulations on your Morris nomination for Conviction! When did you start writing or know you wanted to be a writer? 

Thank you!  It’s such an honor, especially to be in the company of Anna-Marie McLemore, Becky Albertalli, Leah Thomas and Stephanie Oakes, extremely talented women (and lovely people) who’ve written truly incredible books that are all must-reads. I got to read both Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and The Weight of Feathers before they came out, and I remember thinking to myself, oh man, 2015 is going to be a banner year for YA if there ever was one. (And I really think it was!)

I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I’ve been able to read, and the first ‘novel’ I ever wrote was in third grade–I wrote it in my favorite fine-tipped turquoise Crayola marker, and it was concerned primarily with the bedroom of my main character–thinly-disguised wish fulfillment, of course (a canopy bed! A fish tank! An art corner with tons of supplies!). And then I wrote all through my school years, mostly novels (well, “novels”) but occasionally short stories, too.

As someone who is familiar with conservative/evangelical Christianity, I thought you portrayed the nuances of that sub-culture very well. Can you tell us a little bit about writing either from a similar background or research that you did?

This shirt makes an appearance in Conviction

I definitely think ‘conservative/evangelical Christianity’ has its own culture and speaks its own language, and it’s one I’ve always felt fluent in–I grew up going mostly to a very pentecostal church in the late 90s/early 2000s, the heyday of Christian phenomena like True Love Waits and Christian boy bands and, like, shirts like this “His Way” shirt. I think the landscape of American Christianity is changing a lot and is much more varied and diverse now, and I know personally faith (which is still a huge part of my life) looks different to me now than it used to. There are many wonderful things from my church growing up that I hope I always hold onto, but at the same time I don’t necessarily believe a lot of the things I did then, and sometimes now I feel like the longer I believe the more questions I have. My current pastor said once that the opposite of faith isn’t doubt, but certainty, and that really resonated with me in a way I think I would’ve dismissed entirely when I was younger.

But for Conviction I wanted to return to that particular sort of faith where everything feels black and white and certain, because I also remember what it felt like to believe that rightness mattered so much, that your highest duty to God was to fall always on the correct side of things. It was important to me to write a story that dealt with faith in a way that felt honest and complicated and nuanced, and so I wanted Braden to have to grapple with what it was like to experience a true crisis of faith–to find that nothing in the world was what he’d always taken for granted, and to have to figure out where that left him. I love reading about people’s journeys and experiences with their respective beliefs, and I’ve read a lot of honest, raw stories about people who left their faith, but (at least when I thought about books I’d read about young people) I didn’t feel like I’d read as many about people whose faith in its current form became untenable and yet they still found shards to cling to and rebuild into something else. And Braden’s faith is really real and defining to him, even if it’s built on certain questionable foundations, and so I didn’t think that ultimately it would be something he’d walk away from entirely; I felt it would be something he’d always have to come to terms with.

Another of the things that I found Conviction does really well is show the truth behind the carefully constructed facade of many families. Braden’s family has many dysfunctions –  violence, abuse, lies, bigotry – and Braden struggles to see and understand all of them. What promoted you to write about such heavy topics?

You know, it’s funny, I didn’t actually set out to write many of those from the beginning, but as I was getting deeper and deeper into the characters and asking why each one was the way they were, thinking about their backgrounds and their world views, a lot of those things came up (and then I think a lot of them are inextricably tied together–abuse and a cycle of violence, et cetera). And many things, particularly many of the family’s secrets, were discoveries along the way.

But I think also, because I was writing about a young person, I was interested in that shift when you start to see your parents as people rather than just your parents, and I wanted to explore that in a character who has everything riding on telling himself the same narrative he always has.

Kelly Loy Gilbert

Slight spoiler warning for readers: do you hope that eventually Braden can accept his brother for who he is?

I hope so, and I think so. I really think he’s most of the way there–I think the biggest hurdle was his reflexive refusal to consider ever having been wrong, and now that he’s questioning a lot of things he used to take for granted, I think he’ll be a lot more open–more accepting of gray areas, less rigid. Also, Trey is the only person in the world who’s ever going to understand so much about him and where he’s come from, and I think that’ll carry them through a lot of what lies ahead.

Obviously, this book also is about baseball which is a sport that has a lot in common with religion: there are fanatics, rituals, and sacrifices, bunts or otherwise. Did you plan to pair these two themes together?

That’s really interesting that you’d say that; I actually never thought about it in those terms!  But I guess they both appeal to really core parts of Braden’s father Mart–the structure, the idea that you can give yourself completely to both, that they’re both pursuits that demand a certain degree of devotion and discipline. And, also, Braden and Mart both use both faith and baseball as a lens to understand the world and themselves, a way to measure their own morality.

What is next for you? Any new writing projects you can speak about?

I’m working on my next book for Hyperion, about an Asian American teen whose parents are undocumented and who begins to suspect his parents are hiding something much bigger than he ever suspected. Danny, the main character, goes to a super-competitive high school much like the one I attended, and it’s its own world–the pressure makes for really interesting social dynamics and ways people cope. Also, I’m really excited to be writing a book with entirely Asian American main characters!

-Anna Tschetter, currently reading Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls: A Handbook for Unapologetic Living by Jes Baker

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