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Take Five: Favorite Heroine in YA Literature

Mon, 09/07/2015 - 07:00

The Monday Polls were a ton of fun, but as part of the new, expanded coverage on The Hub, we are making a few changes. Instead of just inviting readers to pick their favorite on a topic out of a pre-determined list, we’re going a little more in depth. In addition to sharing five perspectives from Hub bloggers on a topic, we also want to hear what you have to say!

Our inaugural Take Five question is: who is your favorite YA heroine, and why?

I  loved (and still love) Enola Holmes (from the series of the same name by Nancy Springer)!  She is so smart and quick witted (and figured out how to use her corset to hide a dagger in case she ran into baddies).  Plus she could solve any puzzle and disguise herself so that even her brother, the famous Sherlock Holmes, wouldn’t recognize her.  She’s a pretty awesome chick (and I totally wanted to be like her)! — Stacy Holbrook

This is SUCH a tough question! When I think fantasy, my mind automatically goes to the ladies of the Graceling Realm series by Kristin Cashore  (2009 YALSA Teens’ Top Ten, 2009 Morris Award Finalist, 2009 YALSA Best Books for Young Adults). Katsa, Fire, and Bitterblue are all strong and unique and have such sound moral character, and Cashore writes with such great voice. But, I think there’s a tendency to equate heroine with sci-fi, fantasy, or adventure fiction, but I don’t want to overlook the everyday heroes in realistic fiction, so I’m going to have to say Cameron from The Miseducation of Cameron Post by emily m. danforth (2013 Morris Award Finalist). Cam has it rough—she loses her parents at a young age, then struggles with coming out, and is even sent to camp that tries to “de-gay” her. But despite her struggles, she still knows how to have fun, and she definitely knows who she is. And that, to me, makes her a hero. — Molly Wetta

Alanna from Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness series is my all time favorite. (Tamora Pierce won the Edwards Award in 2013). She wouldn’t take no for an answer and did what she wanted to do and she did it the way she wanted to do it. She saved Tortall from destruction time and again, defeated her biggest foe twice, and enacted social change in her country, making it acceptable for noble ladies to be knights if they wanted to- which was probably the most improbable thing she could accomplish! — Carla Land

Menolly is the main character in Anne McCaffrey‘s Harper Hall trilogy. I first read this series when I was in middle school, and she has been my favorite ever since. In the small fishing community where Menolly lives, only men can become Harpers and after her parents cut her from performing or teaching she decides to run away from home. She manages to survive a hostile environment by befriending baby fire lizards (miniature dragons). A strong, capable, and kind heroine, Menolly was everything the eleven year old Jenn aspired to be. The mini-dragons didn’t hurt either. — Jennifer Billingsley

I love Anya Balanchine from the All These Things I’ve Done (Birthright series) by Gabrielle Zevin.  Anya is one of my favorite female characters ever.  She sweet, tough, raw, and stops at nothing to protect her loved ones and she always gets what she wants. Her family ties with the Russian mob and her birthright to chocolate make her a notorious mob boss at the age of 17. Talk about a serious reality check!  If you haven’t read this series yet, you should definitely check it out. — Kimberli Buckley

Who is your favorite YA heroine, and why? We’d love to hear your thoughts! 

— Molly Wetta, currently reading Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson

The post Take Five: Favorite Heroine in YA Literature appeared first on The Hub.

Women in Comics – Back To School Edition

Fri, 09/04/2015 - 07:00

Frontier Classroom by Corey Leopold. CC BY 2.0.

Sad as it may be for some, summer has come to a close and the new school year is upon us. In honor of this time of the year, here is a list of great comics by women that focus on back to school, whether this means starting college, transitioning to middle school or starting over at a new institution. The books range from realistic to fantastic, but they all capture the emotions of the start of a new school year.

Giant Days by John Allison with art by Lissa Treiman – Susan, Daisy, and Esther are three university students facing all of the typical problems of relationships, school work, and living away from home. Though it is set in Britain, the themes are universal and will have appeal both for those who fondly remember college and those who are looking ahead to it. This new incarnation of the webcomic by the same name follows the same three characters as John Allison’s original series, but this time with Lissa Treiman’s artwork. Designed to be a self-contained 6 issue series, it doesn’t presuppose any knowledge of the earlier series, but it will likely leave many interested in finding those earlier stories as well.

The War At Ellsmere by Faith Erin Hicks – When Juniper arrives at Ellsmere, she doesn’t exactly fit right in. She is the scholarship student amongst the rich, fancy girls at her new boarding school and she can feel the differences right away. But, once she becomes friends with her roommate, things look up a bit and she has the strength and support she needs to conquer her weird, and possibly paranormal, new surroundings.

Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks – Another great option from Hicks, this book traces the potentially rocky transition from homeschool student to public school student. Maggie has grown up surrounded by her brothers while she was homeschooled, so when she is dropped into a public high school, it is a lot to take in. And that is without the ghostly visions. This book is another great combination of real high school struggles with a hint of the paranormal.

Nutmeg by James F. Wright with art by Jackie Crofts – When I saw this series described as a mix of Girl Scouts and Breaking Bad, I had to track it down. When Cassia Caraway arrives at her new school, she immediately has problems with the popular girls and makes friends with Poppy, another girl who also clashes with that crowd. Together they decide to exact their revenge by sabotaging the local brownie fundraiser. Is this a harmless prank or the first step on their life of crime?

Gotham Academy Vol 1: Welcome to Gotham Academy by Becky Cloonan and Brenden Fletcher with art by Karl Kerschl – Gotham Academy is one of the most fun new comic series I have started recently. Set in Gotham City at a private boarding school that exists on the fringe of the city’s craziness, the series follows Olive Silverlock and her friends as they explore the mysteries of the school. With hints of the style of Harry Potter or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, this series is perfect for anyone who likes mysteries and school stories.

by Noelle Stevenson with art by Sanford Greene
– Though just starting, this new take on the Runaways’ role in the current Marvel event Battleworld, is a great example of school fiction in comics. Set in the Institute for Gifted Youth, Battleworld’s most prestigious school, which might just be run by a super villain, the story follows the Runaway teens as they try to figure out their places in their school and the larger world. Get in on the ground floor of this series if you love a mix of high school and superheroes!

A Silent Voice by Yoshitoki Oima – This manga is a story about the repercussions of bullying. After bullying Shoko in elementary school for her Deafness, Shoya is surprised to see her again six years later. He is still living with the after effects of his actions and must decide what to make of their meeting. This is an emotional and powerful read.

SuperMutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki – This series of comic strips set at the SuperMutant Magic Academy, which seems like a cross between Hogwarts and Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, is sure to keep you entertained. Each one is more off-beat than the one before and they combine events that seem like they could happen at any high school with the paranormal activities that only these students need to worry about. Whether you are already a fan of Tamaki’s work or not, this is a fun collection to check out.

Hopefully this list will help you find a great back-to-school read, but I am sure there are others I’ve missed. Let me know your favorite school comics by female creators in the comments!

Week in Review: September 4

Fri, 09/04/2015 - 07:00

Start the long weekend off right by catching up on news you might have missed the last few days. The Hub is transitioning to Week in Review instead of Tweets of the Week. Our goal is still to provide easy access to breaking news in the world of teens and libraries, just in a new format. We’ll have news on changes to The Hub next week, so stay tuned!

Books and Reading

At Bustle, there was a round up of highly anticipated YA books coming out in September, including Cut Both Ways by Carrie Mesrobian, who wrote the Morris Finalist Sex & Violence, and Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson, whose debut Girl of Fire and Thorns was also recognized with a Morris Honor.  In addition to reading professional reviews, I like to keep an eye on books that are receiving buzz in mainstream publications that library patrons might follow, as it might indicate potential demand for a title.

B&N Teens featured five YA novels as for fans of The Breakfast Club. The Hub had a love letter to the movie and list of read-alikes earlier this year, and I also made lists of recommended books for each character, so with a few more additions, it might be a fun idea for a book display.

These YA science fiction titles will please fans of The Hunger Games and Maze Runner.

School Library Journal has reviews of realistic teen fiction audiobooks for teens.

Check out this report on the state of the school library ebook market. A teen Hub blogger also shares her thoughts on ebooks versus print.

This review of the manga series Bleach is a great introduction for non-manga readers.

No Flying, No Tights has a review of a book on cosplaying.

Movies, TV, Music, & Video Games

Kenneth Branagh has signed on to adapt the Artemis Fowl series into movies. has a sneak peak of The 5th Wave movie trailer.

Taylor Swift’s latest video is sparking a conversation about privilege, colonialism, and Africa.

Hot video game releases this month include new editions of popular sports games and Mario Maker. See the entire slate of new games at Game Informer.

You know you want to watch this Avengers: Age of Ultron blooper reel.

Just a few weeks until the new season of Doctor Who begins!

Justin Bieber set a record on Spotify with his new single.


Remake Learning has a series on STEAM education, which has a lot of good information for libraries developing programs for youth.

Youth Today has a great piece on the importance of after school programming. Great talking points when advocating for teen library programs!

ALSC Blog has a great post about the Libraries and STEM conference.

Weeding is just as important for maintaining the health of a collection as staying on top of hot new releases! RA for All has a nice round up of resource on weeding.

Don’t miss the new issue of the journal of Research on Libraries and Young Adults.

Just for Fun

Epic Reads has a fun quiz—which fictional high school should you attend? If you’re looking for more options, check out The Hub’s booklist back to (magic) school.

Tumblr of the Week: 8bit Fiction

You have a few more days to send your name to Mars.

Any news we missed? Let us know in the comments! 

— Molly Wetta, currently reading Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E. K. Johnston.

What Would They Read?: Liv from iZombie

Thu, 09/03/2015 - 07:00

I was intrigued by the concept of iZombie before I ever saw an episode. A girl who becomes a zombie, but is fighting her zombie impulses? Moreover, a girl who works in a medical examiner’s office to have easy access to her new food source and conveniently is able to step into the shoes of those whose brains she eats? A girl who now solves crimes through the “visions” she has from eating brains?  Sign me up!

Here are some great zombie, monster, and murder mystery reads that I would recommend to Liv Moore:

Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry (2011 Best Fiction for Young Adults)

This is the first installment in the Benny Imura series, and it follows Benny as he turns fifteen in post-apocalyptic America and is forced to work in the last job he’d ever thought he’d have: apprentice zombie killer.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan (2010 Best Books for Young Adults)

This series follows Mary as she tries to discover what is true and what is false in the stories she’s been told since she was a child. Also, there are baby zombies involved.  Baby zombies now invade my nightmares.

Enclave by Ann Aguirre

Another apocalyptic story, this one involves an underground society where many people don’t live past twenty and small groups of people are constantly assaulted by zombies.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith

Jane Austen’s classic tale with zombies added into it, this book would be a great one for Liv, who has likely read the original Austen work and could enjoy the addition of dangerous zombies to the story.

The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman

This popular graphic novel series would give Liv a peek at what the rest of the world thinks of zombies, just in case she hasn’t figured that out already.

Confessions of a Murder Suspect by James Patterson

Tandy wakes up to discover her parents have been murdered. She and her siblings were in the house when it happened, and now the police have got to figure out who’s responsible for their parents’ deaths. Liv could solve this by eating the brain of one of the parents, but the police in this book are working without Liv’s help, so she’ll have to rely on other clues to solve the mystery instead.

The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey (2010 Printz Honor book, 2010 Best Books for Young Adults, 2010 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults

This is the diary of Will, assistant to a scientist who studies monsters.  Will has seen plenty of unusual things, but one night a grave robber brings them something that plunges will and the monstrumologist deep into a mystery.

Zombies vs. Unicorns by Holly Black and Justin Larbalestier

This collection of short stories tries to solve the age-old question: who’s better, zombies or unicorns? This rather lighthearted read would be a nice break for Liv after so many heavy stories.

–Jenni Frencham, currently reading These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

How to Nerd: Nonfiction Titles for This Quest We Call Life

Wed, 09/02/2015 - 07:00


Perhaps the ever-fabulous John Green said it best in a vlogbrothers video from 2009 when he summed up a nerd as someone who is “unironically enthusiastic about stuff.” For bigger-picture context, John had just seen the latest Harry Potter movie and was thrilled not only by the movie itself, but also by the sense of community and camaraderie he experienced in the theater while waiting for the movie to begin. And while this post isn’t about Harry Potter, the quote (and video) did make me think about exactly what it is to be a nerd.

For me, being a nerd is something I am immensely proud of. It’s come to be a defining factor in my life, something I embrace openly and enthusiastically. Tuesday nights find me at my local tabletop game store playing Carcassonne or Dominion with friends. Weekends are for sci-fi movies and 8-hour video game marathons. I own a Batman backpack, TARDIS lamp, and Master Sword/Shield of Hyrule/Ocarina combo. I pride myself on loving my fandoms passionately, even obsessively.

But what I’ve learned is that just because I read a lot of Batman comics, that doesn’t necessarily make me an expert on the universe. What I love about nerd culture and fandoms is that there is always something new to learn, to obtain, to work toward. But even for someone who already has a base-level knowledge, it can be daunting to jump into a fandom without some guidance. It’s dangerous to go alone, dear readers, take these resources to guide you on your journey!

Batman Science: The Real-World Science Behind Batman’s Gear by Tammy Enz and Agnieszka Biskup (2015 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers)

Since 1939, we’ve been watching Batman save Gotham over and over and over again. Taking on the criminal underworld is bad enough, but Batman’s super-villain rogue gallery requires an extra level of dedication and intelligence. Thankfully, we all know that Batman is secretly Bruce Wayne, billionaire and CEO of WayneTech. With Lucian Fox on his side, Bruce is guaranteed the best of the best equipment and technology to aid his quest – things like the Batmobile, batarangs, armor, and more. In this title, the authors delve into the actual science behind Batman’s gear, bridging the gap between fiction and reality. A must-read for Batman fans or technology gurus.

The Geek’s Guide to Dating by Eric Smith

Even though this book’s target demographic is single guys, I read this one just out of curiosity and really enjoyed it! The slant toward guys is addressed at the very beginning, but even us women can surely find something to take away from this gem of a book – even if it’s only an insight as to how guys think and behave. With chapters on meeting women, going on dates, breaking up, and taking the relationship to a more serious level, this title holds a wealth of indispensable advice for the nerd looking for love!

The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy by Sam Maggs

For the ladies, Sam Maggs has crafted a short-but-comprehensive handbook for all things fandom. This title is absolutely packed with information on almost every aspect of being a lady geek. Maggs covers everything from conventions and cosplay to how to handle online trolls. Also included are helpful glossaries and resources, interviews with famous fangirls, discussions on feminism and its importance, site profiles and info for women artists and creators that everyone should know, a discussion of different kinds of fandoms, and more. With a warm and inviting tone, this reads more like a conversation from an older sister.

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen (2015 Award for Excellence In Nonfiction)

With nothing left to lose, girl geek Maya Van Wagenen decided to attempt a unique social experiment. After unearthing a copy of a 1950s popularity guide written by former teen model Betty Cornell, she made a commitment to live out the advice given in the book, hoping to increase her own social status for the school year. What she encountered was far more than pearls and makeup advice – she began to realize that what we do is actually less important than who we are. Heartfelt and touching, with a hint of wacky, this title is perfect for anyone looking to make friends or trying to come to grips with who they are.

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day

Felicia Day (writer, producer, actress, violinist, feminist, gamer, nerd, and more) opens her new memoir with an account of an encounter she had in the Build-a-Bear store at a local mall. Immediately recognized by a gushing group of Hot Topic employees, she then faces a woman who wants a picture without actually knowing who she is. Day realizes that both she and her fans likely fit into a specific niche, but she is unapologetic about who she is and what she loves. The memoir is infused with humor, and fans of The Guild will appreciate the story behind the woman. Felicia Day is one of my personal heroes, and I hope you’ll like her too!

Armed with these titles, go forth and embrace the nerdy life! Did I miss a nonfiction title I NEED to know about? Let me know in the comments!

-Jancee Wright, currently reading The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert

Sometimes the Apocalypse Can Be Good: Finding the Hope in Dystopian Literature

Tue, 09/01/2015 - 07:00

If you’re reading this, then you’re probably not surprised at the continued popularity of dystopian literature or the many subgenres within it.  Why are readers drawn to a dark post-apocalyptic future or the natural disasters with climate-fiction (cli-fi)?  The appeal of these plots attracts a readership that spans generations.  Others are quick to judge those of us over the age of 18 that love dystopian literature and cli-fi but overlook the joy and positive elements to these plots: the hope in dystopian.  The dystopian genre is more than The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner and as grateful as I am to movies turning kids onto reading books they have also generalized this vast genre and created a stereotype of both this genre’s plots and their readers.

Yes, these books are overly dramatic at times and incredibly unrealistic most of the time, but beyond the angst and youthful revolution mentality, one underlying message reoccurs – hope. Hope that stems from working together; hope that comes from faith in humanity; and hope that even in the midst of corrupt adults, deathly plagues, and the aftermath of natural disasters – we are stronger than the challenges and we, as a people, WILL survive. A story telling how we not only process and overcome negative events in life but still manage to find joy has been around long before the genre was named and long before we met Katniss.

Being drawn to dark plots, death, and those ‘scary’ elements that many adults do not think are age appropriate is not a new fascination for young readers.  Children have grown up with Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales in which children not only kill parents, but adult characters often kill or torture children.  Eighteen years ago parents also worried that Harry Potter was too dark for children.  Yet with each of these masterpieces and their continued popularity decades and centuries later, children not only read about negative facts of life, but they also see how other children overcome these challenges. They learn that one can survive something tragic and sometimes life doesn’t have that Disney ending.

Authors such as Suzanne Collins, James Dashner, Emmy Laybourne, Susan Beth Pfeffer, Amy Plum, Rick Yancey, Allie Condie, Scott Westerfeld, Susanne Young, Virginia Bergin, and Sarah Crossan have taken the plot of teenagers surviving hardships to the next level.  In all of these cases, the youth of the story grow in self-confidence, physical or mental strength, and often help others putting others above their need, or even their own survival.   Who wouldn’t be impressed with these bold and brave teenagers?

In dystopian novels, average teenagers find courage to act for the good of humanity, especially against corruption and disasters.  Unlike in fantasy, where the teenagers have magical ability or super-strength to win the day, teen characters in dystopian novels are relatable, average (or below) in skill, and have to use the same tools readers have: their brains, the help of others, and their own moral conscience.  There are no magical skills to assist these characters’ challenge to authority or ability to survive natural disasters.  These are average teenagers who are strong and powerful.  Of course children and teens who don’t have complete control and power over their lives are drawn to these characters, but why do adults who are decision makers spend their free time reading about such negativity?

This is what I tell parents of students: dystopian fiction offers an escape that is so farfetched, it’s not a real threat to daily life and in these stories humanity always steps up to help one another – the average person makes a difference.  There is joy and hope in dystopian fiction, even when tsunamis wipe out one-fourth of the world or technology is gone.

Authors are going beyond dystopian and the generalizations of a corrupt government or survival games with the subgenre of climate fiction, or cli-fi, and include every environmental catastrophe imaginable—sometimes all in the same book.  The elements of dystopian still exist; however, the cause of trouble is environmental.  Part of the allure of this type of dystopian novel are the detailed explanation of climate change and the environmental disaster.  The weather becomes an exciting character, causing more havoc than any magical spell or government could, since the latter have people behind the planning and those people can be stopped.  In the case of Mother Nature there is no physical person to stop.  Series such as Monument 14  by Emmy Laybourne and Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer offer more entertaining weather catastrophes and focus on the overall good of humanity. When the danger is a natural event, it is a fight for humanity’s survival, not a fight of teenagers against adults.

The hope in dystopian novels persists despite the negative events.  Similarly, as readers follow the hardships of characters in any story, the conflict is generally not an age appropriate predicament, but one that is full of struggle, and sometimes death, no matter the genre. They find hope often with the help of friends, strangers, and from within.  While many see dystopian novels as full of depressing thoughts or about ‘kids killing kids’ (The Hunger Games), kidnapping and brainwashing (After the End), death and depression (The Program), or surviving in an environmental wasteland (Monument 14, Breathe, Life as We Knew It) others find strength in a sister’s love, comfort through the help of others, friendship that can survive loss, and that everyone must work together for the overall good.   These books offer hope that we, as a people, come together, and will survive. They show that hope is possible even in the most devastating situations.  And isn’t that a nice thought for any reader to take away from a book?

— Sarah Carnahan, currently reading All Fall Down by Ally Carter and Sweet by Emmy Laybourne

Booklist: Back to (Magic) School

Mon, 08/31/2015 - 07:00

It’s back to school season, which elicits excitement from some, but groans from others. When I first went back to library school, as much as I enjoyed my classes, I sort of wished they were more from the Rupert Giles school of Library Science, with a syllabus that looks something like this.

Suffice to say: I sympathize with teens who may be more excited to get lost in a fantasy world than dig into algebra homework (not that algebra isn’t important. It is). So for those study breaks when one just needs to escape, here are some fantasy and paranormal novels in school settings.

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

Sophie’s a witch, and when a prom night spell goes wrong, her punishment is reform school for the supernaturally inclined (witches, but also werewolves, vampires, and fairies). Turns out, Hex Hall isn’t that different than regular high school, and Sophie has to deal with mean girls, an major crush, and befriending outcasts. Oh, there’s also mysterious attacks on students, so maybe that’s a big different? Full of wit and spunk, Hex Hall is a fast, fun read.

Soulbound by Heather Brewer

Kaya is a healer at Shadow Academy, and because of her position, she’s forbidden to learn to fight, so she must train in secret. A thrilling romance, this fantasy novel is perfect for fans of strong female characters.

Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins 

Harper was a debutante before she left a ball with new magical powers (long story). Now she’s a guardian with lots of skills and charged with protecting the school reporter, who might be fated to bring down the world. Southern sass and a bit of magic make this novel a fun time!

Keeper of Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger

Sophie is a bit of a misfit, mostly because she’s a telepath. Then, she learns she meets more kids with psychic abilities, and is transported to a new world and a new school where she studies things like elementalism and alchemy. Keeper of the Lost Cities is a vivid, magical middle grade fantasy that explores themes of belonging, family and friendship.

Novice by Taran Mathatu

Fletcher was just a blacksmith when he learned he had the ability to summon demons and was whisked off to a school for adepts to train in the art, so he can serve as a Battlemage in a war against savage Orcs.  The first in a series, this book if perfect for fans of fantasy with a medieval feel.

Illusions of Fate by Kierstin White

This novel, set in an alternate world with a Victorian-like setting, is the story of Jessamin, who travels from her island home to the dreary continent to attend university. White weaves a tale of colonialism and imperialism laced with magic and romance that fans of historical fantasy will enjoy.

SuperMutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tomaki 

This serialized web series is now in graphic novel form with a bonus ending! Although the school does feature witches and magical mutants, the conflicts are more everyday teenage angst and drama. Cute and funny, this is a must read for fans of graphic novels.

The Art of Wishing by Lindsay Ribar

Dating is high school is complicated enough, let alone when your boyfriend is a genie who can be summoned away at any moment and who is being hunted by someone trying to kill him (and all the genies in the world). This book is perfect for readers looking for a fresh take on a paranormal romance.

Skin Hunger by Kathleen Duey 

This dark, complex fantasy is told in two timelines: one, in a time where magic is forbidden, and another, set in a school where wizards learn magic while enduring brutal conditions, but it is only accessible to the wealthy.

The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

Callum doesn’t want to attend the Magisterium, a school for learning to control elemental magic. But, when he takes the Iron Trial, he fails at failing and becomes an apprentice to a Mage — and so begins a thrilling adventure. This middle grade fantasy from popular authors Black and Clare will certainly find teen fans.

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead (2008 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers)

Mean Girls meets Twilight in this campy romp set in a school for elite vampires who learn magic and their protectors who train in combat.

Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

Miri has always led a simple life, until it is predicted that the future princess lives in her village, and all young ladies are sent to a special school to learn the art of being a princess, but learns more about friendship and bravery. Even without magic, this is still a popular fantasy book with a school setting.

 A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray (2004 Best Books for Young Adults)

In this historical novel, Gemma is shipped off to boarding school, where she learns that she has the power to see into the spirit world.

Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger 

Sophronia is sent off to finishing school to learn some manners because her mom wants her to be a “proper young lady” — what her mother didn’t know was that her teachers would be vampires and werewolves and that she’d learn how to be a spy and assassin along with developing social grace.

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

Joel, a student at Armedius Academy, wants to be a rithmatist and learn the powers to wield magic that can create beings to defend against magical monsters. This inventive and unique magical system is part of an immersive world and the backdrop to a tale of suspense and adventure.

The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett 

Dusty is the only Nightmare at Arkwell Academy, a boarding school for the supernatural. Which means her homework is breaking into people’s houses and invading her dreams. When she uncovers a murder that comes true in the dreams of a (cute!) boy, she’s now got to unravel a mystery (for extra credit).

What is your favorite fantasy or paranormal novel with a school setting? 

— Molly Wetta, currently reading Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E. K. Johnston


Diversity YA Life: Diverse Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror

Mon, 08/31/2015 - 07:00

Much of diverse young adult literature is contemporary, realistic fiction, or historical fiction about the struggle of being a person of color.  As a teen library worker, I get to know the personal lives of teens and some of their stories are heartbreaking.  From poverty to bullying, I recognize that the struggle is real and I am happy to be a non-judgemental adult soundboard.  I am also grateful for the plethora of young adult fiction available so that I can hand a book to a teen I feel will provide some insight and comfort.

But when life is tough, many teens also like to escape into fantasy and science fiction. Readers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror also like to see themselves in these books.  If people of color can survive slavery and oppression and poverty, they can also survive zombies and maniacal kings and dragons. So, where are the black Hermiones?

I am a teen services specialist and a major part of my job is to connect teens with books.  I have an avid reader, who is Middle Eastern, who asks me to recommend fantasy books about once a month.  A year ago when the We Need Diverse Books movement started, I asked her to do a cue card about why we need diverse books and she stated that she would like to see more Middle Eastern characters in fantasy.   A little over a year later, I gave her The Wrath and The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh and she came back and absolutely raved about the book.  She said that she particularly loved the inside cover because there was a girl who looked and dressed like her.  This is one reason why we need diverse books.

If you are a library worker looking to enhance your diverse young adult repertoire or a teen reader looking for yourself in a magical world or a speculative fiction reader seeking something new, here’s a list of speculative young adult fantasy/science fiction titles for you to try.  Please note that some titles feature characters of color in a supporting role—but that’s okay because Hermione was a supporting character, too.

Fantasy and Science Fiction that Feature Latino Characters

Sierra’s tia teases that her skin is too dark and her hair is too nappy but she is confident and driven to find out the secrets of her family’s supernatural connections.

Mateo isn’t quite human; he’s a clone created to extend the lives of others.

Aaron has a girlfriend who loves him but his friends aren’t always supportive. His mother loves him unconditionally but his father recently committed suicide. His older brother ignores him but he’s found a new best friend. His friend, Kyle, feels responsible for the death of his twin brother but the Leteo Institute erased Kyle’s memories. Aaron is more happy than not.

Elisa bears the stone of greatness. She is chosen to wed a king but is loved by a revolutionary.

Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror that Feature Black Characters

Nathan is a half black witch and half white witch and was disowned and caged for his mixed race.  He needs his three gifts to gain his powers but he must find his father, the most terrifying witch in the world, to attain them.

Jasper Jazz Dent’s father is an incarcerated notorious serial killer which he fears he will one day become.  A copycat killer is on the loose and Jazz may be the only person who can catch him. With the help of his girlfriend Connie and his best friend, Jazz sets out to capture the killer. (The person of color in I Hunt Killers is Connie.)

Ivy suffers from the nightmares of a brutal attack and when she receives an opportunity to meet a famous horror director, she jumps at the chance.  Ivy and six other fans however find themselves in the middle of horror film of their own. (The person of color in Dark House is a supporting character.)

Celaena is one of the best assassins in the land and the king needs an assassin for his personal bidding.  To get out of the salt mines, Calaena must battle others to win the title. (The person of color in Throne of Glass is Nehemia, the Princess of Eyllwe.)

Fairest tells the backstory of Queen Levana and how she came to be so evil. (The person of color in Fairest is Winter, Queen Levana’s step-daughter.  Winter is also the title character in book 4 of The Lunar Chronicles.)

Evie is a spunky clairvoyant who is forced to live with her uncle in New York City to escape a misdeed.  When a serial killer begins to terrorize New York, Evie uses her skills to solve the murders. (The persons of color in The Diviners are Memphis, a boy with the power to raise the dead, and Theta, a chorus girl.)

Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror that Feature Asian Characters

Wen works as her father’s surgical assistant in a slaughterhouse.  At first Wen scoffs as the workers leave offerings for a ghost but when her attacker is mysteriously injured, Wen begins to believe. Of Metal and Wishes is a retelling of The Phantom of the Opera.

Thomas arrives in The Glade but doesn’t know his name or why he’s there but he soon finds out that he and the other Gladers must make it through the maze to survive. (The person of color in The Maze Runner is Minho, the leader of the runners.)

Okiku hunts child murderers until she meets a mysterious boy with special tattoos.

Allison, a human, lives in the city’s underbelly to hid from the vampires. When she is bitten, she sets off on a pilgrimage to find the cure.

Cinder is a cyborg and may be the antidote to the deadly disease that is plaguing New Beijing. Cinder is a retelling of Cinderella.

Tessa arrives in London to find her missing brother but gets swept up in the underground paranormal world. (The person of color in The Infernal Devices is Jem.)

Fantasy and Science Fiction that Feature Middle Eastern Characters

Shahrzad has one mission-marry the king then kill him for murdering her best friend. The Wrath and the Dawn is a retelling of One Thousand and One Nights.

Callum has been warned to stay away from magic but when he’s tested to enter the school for magic, he fails to fail the tests.  Accompanied by his new friends, Aaron and Tamara, Callum must pass the Iron Trials where he finds out he’s truly exceptional.  (The person of color in The Iron Trial is Tamara.)

-Dawn Abron, currently reading Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin

Monday Poll: Wrap Up

Mon, 08/31/2015 - 07:00

Good morning! This marks the last Monday Poll feature. Last week, we asked what your favorite boarding school novel was, and it was neck-and-neck between The Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter with 29% of the votes and Looking for Alaska by John Green with 27% of the votes.

As always, you can browse the past polls in the archives. These are great fodder for display ideas or even passive programs. While they’ve been fun, we’re going to transition to a new Monday feature here at The Hub, so stay tuned!


Tweets of the Week: August 28th

Fri, 08/28/2015 - 07:00

One more weekend before Labor Day! The end of summer goes fast. Here are some of the things that had people buzzing on Twitter this week. Wednesday was the anniversary of the amendment which gave women the right to vote. Two television reporters were killed by a domestic terrorist. Here’s what happened in the book, pop culture, and library worlds this week.




Librarianship/Youth Culture/Youth Services/Social Media

— Hannah Gómez, currently reading Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Cross-Unders Revisited: Great Teen Books for Tween Readers

Fri, 08/28/2015 - 07:00

Today’s post is co-written by myself and Kenzie Moore. Kenzie is a student in her final semester of Syracuse University iSchool’s MLIS program, where she’s been focusing on teen services in between watching episodes of Teen Wolf and going to One Direction concerts. You can connect with her on Twitter.

It feels like every day we meet new tweens who are reading above their grade level and seeking recommendations. Cross-unders, or teen books with tween appeal, were well-covered in this 2013 Hub post from Erin Bush and Diane Colson. The YALSA Blog chimed in with reasons why these books are an important part of a teen collection serving reluctant and ELL teen readers as well as advanced tweens and younger teens. Knowing how frequently we search for titles to fit these diverse needs, Kenzie and I offer some additional cross-under suggestions. Feel free to add your own in the comments!

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie — 14-year-old Junior is going to do something he thought was impossible: he’s going to leave the Spokane Indian reservation where he lives. Not permanently or anything, but he deserves better than decades-old math books, and he’s mad about it. Mad enough to do something. Sherman Alexie’s highly-buzzed book deals with some complicated topics: bullying, racism, alcoholism, but it also deals with what it is like to find your own path to walk as a young person. That, combined with the humor in Junior’s voice and his drawings that pepper the pages, is going to make this a high-appeal book for readers just starting to dip their toes into the teen waters.

His Dark Materials Trilogy, by Philip Pullman — Philip Pullman’s trilogy is another good recommendation for those fantasy readers that have exhausted every series you suggest… and that one… and yep, they read that one too. The first book in the series, The Golden Compass, was originally published in 1995, but the story has a timeless feel that keeps the series from feeling dated. Daemons, witches, alternate universes, and of course, a coming of age tale at the heart of it all. His Dark Materials is a trilogy that is ideal for readers that like the lyrical flow of epic fantasies but don’t necessarily want the romance or the explicit violence that you can sometimes get in fantasy novels.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by E. Lockhart — At 14, Frankie Landau-Banks was a little bit of a nerd trying to navigate life at her prestigious boarding school. At 15, she’s dating a senior and possibly becoming the greatest criminal mastermind her school has ever seen. This is a story about growing up in a boys’ world and deciding that it just isn’t good enough. Younger readers reading up will connect with Frankie’s no-nonsense attitude and youthful voice, plus they’ll appreciate the look forward to what your early years in high school are like.

Ash, by Malinda Lo — Lo’s retelling of the Cinderella myth is the story of a young girl, Ash, abused by her step-family in the wake of her father’s death, who can’t stop thinking about the woods by her childhood home, the woods where the fairies lived. That is, until she can’t stop thinking about the King’s Huntress, Kaisa. Ash is a beautifully crafted fantasy that includes LGBTQ representation and heavier topics, like death and abuse, without ever feeling vulgar or overwhelming. Readers that have exhausted the fantasy offerings on the children’s side of the library will appreciate the new voice.

Under the Egg, by Laura Marx Fitzgerald — Manhattan. Art theft. Intrigue. Theodora (just call her Theo) Tenpenny finds what she believes to be the find of the century on accident, when she spills some rubbing alcohol on a painting that belonged to her late grandfather. If only she didn’t suspect he’d stolen it from the Met. As Theo tries to unravel the mystery, she goes on adventures all around Manhattan and meets a whole cast of interesting characters. Under the Egg is a good recommendation for the budding mystery-readers or the readers that like their books with a bit of quirk to them.

The Maze Runner, by James Dashner — So hard to put down! This dystopian series grabs you from the beginning and keeps the twists coming. The author was influenced by Ender’s Game and Lord of the Flies, and fans of those stories will appreciate the connections. Sensitive readers may want to proceed carefully, but those who love grit, mystery, and scares will devour this series.

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal, by G. Willow Wilson, illustrated by Adrian Alphona — There is so much for young readers to identify with in the story of Kamala Khan. Though she is a Pakistani-American girl growing up in New Jersey and chafing against her conservative Muslim parents (and mysteriously acquiring powers), her story’s themes are universal: just wanting to be normal while feeling like her family is the weirdest and her body is out of control. The story and artwork include wonderful details (whose phone hasn’t died at the worst time possible? And who else wears giant, unflattering glasses at home when only family can see?). Don’t miss recommending this series kickoff that was a gamechanger in the not-so-diverse comics landscape.

The Glass Sentence, by S. E. Grove — Fantasy fans won’t want to miss this debut and series opener, with its complex weaving of timelines and worlds. Sophia has been living in a broken-apart world since the Great Disruption of 1799, when the continents were thrust into different Ages of the past, present, and future, and she was separated from her parents. Now she lives in New Occident Boston with her Uncle Shadrack, a famed mapmaker and magician, until the day he is kidnapped and it is up to Sophia to find the answers.

The Wednesday Wars, by Gary D. Schmidt — Holling Hoodhood knows how to make enemies, and he’s pretty sure he’s made one of his teacher, Mrs. Baker, when he has to stay with her on Wednesday afternoons when all of his classmates leave early for Hebrew school or catechism. He’s even more convinced of it when she assigns him the reading of Shakespeare during their time together. But it doesn’t turn out all bad, as he and Mrs. Baker slowly become friends over the background tumult of the late 1960’s, Holling’s home life, and the wisdom of Shakespeare.

The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander — Twins Josh (Filthy McNasty) and Jordan (JB) Bell have always been basketball phenoms (their dad is a former pro player), and they’ve always been close. But their 7th grade year brings some major changes — a girlfriend, a championship, and their dad’s shaky health — that test their relationship. Rap + sports + family + girl drama + fast read = high appeal. This one is great on audio, too.

~Rebecca O’Neil, currently reading George by Alex Gino

British Comedy YA Books

Thu, 08/27/2015 - 07:00

British media is really the best, because it has something to offer almost everyone. Love all things Austen? You probably love Downton Abbey! Obsessed with mysteries (and Benedict Cumberbatch)? Sherlock! Wacky, galaxy-hopping fantasy adventure? You must be a Doctor Who fan. But my personal favorite Anglo import has to be the British comedy.

I’m not sure what, exactly, about British comedy makes it so particularly appealing, but I’ve loved it ever since PBS started airing classics like Are You Being Served and Vicar of Dibley waaaaay back in the day. The Brit Com seems to have cornered the market on ridiculously embarrassing antics from endearingly witty oddballs, and something it about it speaks to me (as to what that says about me…well, we’ll leave that to speculation). But while Brit Coms on TV don’t seem to have the same resonance with teens as Doctor Who and Sherlock, there is one area where they dominate: YA books.

A perfect example? The snarky, irreverent Georgia Nicolson from Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging (2001 Printz Honor book and first of the Confessions of Georgia Nicolson books by Louise Rennison). When you first meet Georgia, she’s just accidentally shaved off one eyebrow (whoops!) and is working on ways to make that look, you know, work. Her fab lingo is just as delightful as her wry observations – I called my school “Stalag 14” all the way through high school – and no matter how you slice it, she remains one of my all-time favorite voices in, er, literature.

If you loved Angus – or if you’re just looking for a fall-off-your-chair laugh – you’ll find these three charmingly bonkers British books for teens absolutely fabulous.

Geek Girl by Holly Smale features a Georgia Nicolson for a new generation. When self-proclaimed geek Harriet Manners is spotted by a top modelling agency, she jumps at the chance to reinvent herself. Clumsy (no, like, seriously clumsy – on a runway, and in spike heels, no less) and hopelessly, hilariously awkward in her attempts to conceal her new career from her stepmom and best friend, Geek Girl is the perfect combination of humor and the warm fuzzies.


In Boys Don’t Knit (in Public) by T. S. Easton, chronic worrier and rule-follower Ben Fletcher must attend a community college class as part of his probation for his first-ever brush with the law. Ben signs up for knitting, thinking it’s taught by his favorite (pretty) teacher; it’s not, but as it turns out, Ben is a natural born knitter. He’s great at creating new patterns, but explaining his new-found calling to his football-loving dad is an entirely different matter. Written in diary form, this book is delightfully kooky.

In what is surely the best title I’ve come across this year, Half My Facebook Friends Are Ferrets by J. A. Buckle is another diary-style charmer. Sixteen-year-old Josh is pretty sure he could be a major metalhead if he could just convince his mom to let him skip a haircut or two. And maybe let him buy a real guitar. Adorably awkward around girls and suffering some hilarious restrictions from a conservative mom, Josh can’t seem to catch a break and become the rockstar he knows he could be.

If you’re looking for a book full of laughs, check out these gems.

-Savannah Kitchens, currently reading Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

Romance Awareness Month

Wed, 08/26/2015 - 07:00

The month of August is designated Romance Awareness Month, so it’s a great time to spotlight romance titles.

Not everyone knows what a romance novel really means – I talk to tons of people who aren’t sure.

There’s a fool proof definition: A romance ends with a happily ever after.

In adult romances, books end with the couples married or engaged or together for the rest of their lives. For teens, it’s more likely happily ever after for now. Most teen books don’t end with marriage or the acknowledgement that they found their soul mate (although a few do.). Even in teen romances, the couple falls in love and are together at the end of the book.

It doesn’t matter if you fall in love in the book if the book doesn’t end happily. Nicholas Sparks doesn’t usually write romance. The Fault in Our Stars isn’t a romance. Romeo and Juliet isn’t a romance. Sure those books have elements of romance in them, but they are not romance books; they’re missing that one key ingredient of happily ever after.

A few years ago, I challenged myself for a month (roughly 30 books for me) to read only romance books. I thought it would be harder for YA novels, but in actuality, I realized that most YA books tend to have a romance plot line. The book that hit me on the head with this idea was Dead to You by Lisa McMann. A boy is kidnapped at the age of seven and returns home nine years later. The homecoming isn’t perfect and all of his family isn’t happy to see him returned. In immersing himself back into his old life, he rediscovers an old childhood friend. Their friendship turns into something romantic. I wouldn’t call this a straight romance, but it does have romantic elements.

Romance doesn’t have to be the central plot-line, but it’s prevalent in a lot of YA books. I think the romance is there to give readers hope that even though there are dark, dangerous, and strange times growing up, love could be waiting just around the corner. Love reminds us of the good things in life and the bright moments in our days. Love gives us Hope.

Romance is everywhere and in a variety of genres including contemporary, mystery, thriller, fantasy, sci-fi, sports reads, and even books with male main characters. If you want some ideas of books to pull for a contemporary list, check out Jessica Lind’s genre guide.

I read a lot of thrillers, here are a few with a happily for now romance:

The Night She Disappeared by April Henry.
Gabie delivers pizzas. She changes shifts with a co-worker. On the night she’s supposed to work, Kayla goes out for delivery and never returns. Gabie can’t help but this she was the intended target. She and Drew (another co-worker) start to piece together clues to lead them to uncover the truth about that night.

This is Not a Drill by Beck McDowell
Emery and Jake never expected a father with PTSD to come into school with a gun when they signed up to teach French to first grade students. Emery and Jake must help the kids remain calm. They don’t want to do anything to agitate the man. Everyone is scared. Their teacher tries to stand up to the man, but soon she’s injured. Emery and Jake have to put aside their differences and work together to help the kids and to get everyone out of the room without another injury.

Rook by Sharon Cameron
Sophia saves people from the guillotine, leaving behind a red tip feather. Her last mission sends up red flags and the authorities are suspicious of her family and of her brother in particular. As the danger grows closer, Sophia isn’t sure who to trust anymore. Everyone wants something from her, even her fiance, whom she can’t help be drawn too. Can she survive the game without losing the people that matter most to her?

Is there a book that surprised you with a romance plot line or a book that did romance really well? Let us know in the comments.

~ Jennifer Rummel currently reading Everything and the Moon by Julia Quinn

Podcasts to Help You Build Your Teen Collection

Wed, 08/26/2015 - 07:00

Photo by Flickr User jeff_golden

Are you a library staff member responsible for purchasing teen materials for your collection?  If so, I encourage you to include listening to podcasts about teen literature and other teen media as part of your research into what to buy.  In addition to tools such as collection analysis, surveys of your teen user population and media reviews, podcasts produced by those who have a passion for teen materials are a truly valuable resource.  Podcasts also have the advantage of fitting easily into a busy schedule — you can listen while you eat lunch, walk or do things around the house…or just eat again…dessert?

In my research for this post, I sampled several podcasts dedicated to teen literature.  Finding teen literature-focused podcasts was the main object of my search, although a couple of the podcasts which I will recommend do include discussion of other media.  My main criteria for selecting a podcast to recommend were that it be currently active, largely focused on teen literature/media and hosted by someone with a background in teen literature/media (and ideally some experience working in teen library services or teaching).

The following is just a sampling of all the great teen literature podcasts out there—a place to start your listening.  If you find that you enjoy a particular podcast, do provide feedback to its hosts to encourage them to continue their work!  I also hope that you will add your own favorite teen literature or other media podcasts in the comments area of this post.

For each of the podcasts below, I have included a link to its accompanying Web site or blog.  On each site or blog you will find links to podcast episodes as well as an indication regarding recommended listening apps to use.


Adventures in YA

This is a very new podcast, the first episode of which was released on July 7, 2015.  It is cohosted by Kristin Treviño, Teen Services Librarian at the Irving Public Library system in Texas, and another adult teen literature lover who identifies herself as “Sarah” in the first episode (their “About Us” page is still under construction).  Kristin orders all the young adult fiction for her library system and is the principal organizer of the hugely popular new North Texas Teen Book Festival. The Adventures in YA podcast focuses on teen literature that the cohosts love and recommend, as well as new releases. A fun, insightful and promising start.


Adventures with Words: YA Edition

This British podcast is cohosted by Rob Chilver and Kate Neilan. Rob works for, a major British book retailer, but notes that his views expressed on the podcast and accompanying blog are purely his own. Kate is a former secondary school teacher. In the YA Edition — a monthly feature of the larger Adventures with Words podcast which began approximately three years ago – Rob and Kate focus on teen literature, but also discuss graphic novels, music, TV and music. This is a great resource to hear about British young adult releases, possibly before they hit the American market. They also discuss many American titles.


Comic Pop Library

This podcast, with an impressive start date of Oct. 2010, is cohosted and produced by Richard Brookman, Jr., director of the Kearny County Library in Kansas. He has several regular cohosts, but I wanted to highlight the delightful fact that three of these cohosts include his wife, Michelle, and his teenage children, April and Logan. The mix of ages and genders among the many cohosts provides a well-rounded perspective on the topics that they discuss, namely manga, anime and animation, comic books, graphic novels, movies, music and videogames. They discuss both YA and adult materials.


Infopeople: In the Library with a Comic Book

Infopeople provides training on behalf of the California State Library and sponsors this twice-monthly podcast produced by Donna Mettier, Technical Services Manager of the Marin County Free Library in California. It is cohosted by the California-based team of Jack Baur, Teen Services Librarian at the Berkeley Public Library and Amanda Jacobs Foust, the Eureka! Fellow Coordinator and Consultant for Infopeople, who also has a background in teen librarianship and literature. The podcast, which covers teen, children’s and adult graphic novels, manga and comic books and is now in its second year, has interviewed several artists and writers, provided annual “best of” and other themed book lists and discussed comics conferences, among other topics.


Infopeople: Michael Cart on Young Adult Literature

Infopeople also sponsors Michael Cart’s very informative podcasts about young adult literature. Cart is the former director of the Beverly Hills Public Library and past President of YALSA. He is also an author himself and nationally recognized expert in young adult literature. If you need a thoughtfully assembled book list on a teen literature theme, concisely and also honestly presented, Cart is your podcaster. His recent podcasts have covered banned books, adult books for teens and LGBTQ literature, but this is just a sampling of the themes of his YA podcast episodes, which appear every 1 to 2 months.


Banned Library

This podcast discusses banned books, many of them written for young adults. Founded by a librarian in 2011, there is a wealth of resources in the archives.


PW KidsCast

This Publisher’s Weekly podcast features interviews of both children’s and YA authors by children’s review editor John A. Sellers. New episodes are added weekly. Authors range from debuts, like Virginia Boecker, to award winners, like Rebecca Stead.


Sara Zarr’s This Creative Life

YA literature author Sara Zarr interviews other authors, primarily also of YA literature. Recent guests include Jennifer E. Smith and Gayle Forman.


Again, please add your suggestions of additional podcasts in the comments!


– Anna Dalin, currently reading The World’s Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette’s, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family by Joshua Hanagarne

Back to School Books: Be One of the New Kids

Tue, 08/25/2015 - 07:00
Teens everywhere are starting new adventures at a new place with new people. This is a moment of transition that is filled with so many different feelings. Teens may feel: excited, nervous, confident, free, scared, happy, anxious, or any combination of these. Starting somewhere new something everyone experiences at once point, which why it is forms the basis of the plots in many classic and upcoming stories. Readers embarking on new journeys at the beginning of this school year may be interested in one of these new releases featuring tales of new kids at school.


Don’t Ever Change by M. Beth Bloom Eva wants to a write a modern classic that appeals to her modern generation, except that she doesn’t know if she’ll be able to with her limited life experience. Before heading to college, Eva is determined to discover a life worth writing about. She didn’t expect the plot twists – earning a job as a summer camp counselor, growing apart from her friends BEFORE she leaves for school, and falling in love. Now, Eva only needs to discover how her story will unfold, chapter by chapter.


The Space in Between by Melyssa Winchester
Emery is starting her final year of high school, senior year that defines her next step after Greenville High to any college she chooses. She is not the ugly duckling, virgin looking for the popular guy, or classic beauty who can have anyone she wants. She is just the normal girl interested in taking pictures and practicing on her acoustic guitar rather than getting involved in drama. Until she meets Christian who is unlike anyone else. It’s complicated since he arrived, and in a couple months, he’ll be only one thing to her: her step-brother.


The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Sixteen-year-old Tess Kendrick life on her grandfather’s ranch is uprooted when her estranged sister drags her to D.C. Tess is thrown into a world of politics and power after enrolling at Hardwicke Academy, the school for the children of the rich and powerful. In those walls, she is thrust into the role of “the fixer” for the high school community, fixing teens’ problems like her sister did for her parents’ problems. A local conspiracy arises that involves a family member of one of Tess’s classmates and shocking secrets are exposed. This not only makes Tess’s life more complicated, but also more interesting.

You and Me and Him by Kris Dinnison
Being a best friend requires a person to stand by your side no matter what, even if you’re overweight or out of the closet. Outsiders Maggie and Nash support each other through all obstacles, but their friendship is challenged when Tom moves to town at the start of the school year. This is the boy who has stolen both of their hearts. Told with musical references and clever dialogue, Maggie and Nash will learn to a sing along in harmony, one way or another. Start the new school year off right with a new book! If you have any favorite back to school books, share them in the comments. 

— Heather Johnson, currently reading Winger by Andrew Smith

Reader Response: Amazing Audiobooks

Mon, 08/24/2015 - 07:00

The following is a reader response from BJ Neary, who participated in and finished the 2015 Hub Reading Challenge.

This is my second year participating and completing The Hub Reading Challenge.  I am an avid reader of all things YA- enjoying all genres in YA especially nonfiction, novels in verse, and series books.  This year I discovered I had read many books on the list.  So I decided to push myself and delve into audiobooks in the Challenge.  Below are just a few of the award winning titles I listened to and RECOMMEND in the Amazing Audiobook section of the 2015 Hub Reading Challenge.

Love Letters to the Dead  by Ava Dellaira was awesome. Laurel is still reeling from the death and loss of her older sister, May.  Laurel has transferred to a new school. In English her first assignment is to write a letter to a dead person. This assignment begins a year- long letter writing campaign from Laurel to Kurt Cobain, Judy Garland, River Phoenix, Amelia Earhart, Amy Winehouse, poets and many more…What I liked about these letters is that Laurel researches each subject and the reader learns about the lives of these dead people and we see parallels to May, Laurel, and her family. As Laurel struggles with her guilt, her silence, her own self- image, and her idealization of May…who will she become? As a reader, I savored the New Mexico setting, the flawed (but real) characters, the letters, and Laurel’s journey.  Teens will relate to Laurel, Sky, Natalie, and Hannah in their daily lives and interpersonal relationships in high school.

Acid by Emma Pass – I couldn’t stop listening as Jenna Strong is imprisoned by the police (the most barbaric force known as ACID) for murdering her parents when she was 15 years old. But all is not as it seems; if you love action, suspense, and thrillers; you will not soon forget Jenna’s world of lies, espionage, and sinister brutality—what will she do to remember her life as it was and as it is now? This audiobook has riveting plots, characters (nasty and nice) and a dystopian world you won’t forget! 

Revolution by Deborah Wiles – What I enjoyed most was the factual speeches from the 1960s and news stories  interspersed with white Sunny’s story of civil rights workers coming to her town in Mississippi and getting blacks out to vote. Sunny’s teen viewpoint was key- she did not know about racism and segregation other than what she hears (“they are invaders”) from her family and others in charge.  Sunny learns so much more that summer as events unfold, friendships are made and broken, and families are mended.

Define Normal by Julie Ann Peters – LOVED it. Both girls are fantastic protagonists, although the story is told solely from Antonia’s point of view.  Antonia is peer counseling Jazz Luther who is her total opposite. As I listened to this compelling audiobook I realized why I love Julie Ann Peters’ books- she gets teens. This book is no different- both Jazz and Antonia have “stuff” going on and teens will be riveted reading or listening to this book; can seeming “opposites” get along, trust each other, and become friends?

Half Bad by Sally Green is an amazing psychological thriller audiobook! I loved Carl Prekopp’s narration; he was gripping and mesmerizing as Nathan. In a future England, Nathan is half white witch and half black witch and it is being the son of notorious black witch, Marcus, that brands him an outsider—even his own sister, Jessica, hates him. Thankfully Nathan has a wonderful and sympathetic brother, Aaron.  Aaron is sweet, trusting, and very protective of Nathan. But Aaron is not bullied, beaten up, or branded “BAD” like Nathan. Will Nathan be able to elude the hunters and survive until his 17th birthday and receive his three important powers of magic? Will he be able to survive in a world that does not want him or his father?

-BJ Neary


The Monday Poll: Favorite Boarding School YA Novel

Sun, 08/23/2015 - 23:00

Last week’s poll asked what novelist who typically writes for adults you’d love to see pen a YA novel, and the overwhelming favorite was Gillian Flynn with 38% of the votes, although Junot Diaz was another popular choice with 24% of the votes. You can see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive. Thanks to all of you who voted and commented last week!

This week, we’re looking for your favorite YA novel set in boarding school. Here’s a sampling of YA novels where the characters attend boarding school, but they are by no means the only ones! Vote for your favorite below or share another title in the comments.

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

A Teen Perspective: E-books vs. Print Books

Fri, 08/21/2015 - 07:00

photo by Flickr user pedrosimoes

Breaking news – There has been a technological revolution where kindles, e-books, and various

online reading apps have taken over the world. Well, not exactly… But with today’s technological advancement it seems as though the popularity of reading books online has dramatically increased. In fact, according to a 2012 survey by Pew Research Center, the average number of books read by a reader of e-book is 24 books compared to 15 books for those who only read print. What makes reading an e-book more popular than reading a print book? I plan to evaluate the pros and cons for both types of books.

There are so many wonderful factors involved with reading a print copy of the book. When I was in elementary school I remember the excitement of going to the bookstore with my mom to purchase more Magic Tree House and Junie B. Jones books. The feel of sitting down in the book store, perusing through various books and selecting which ones I wanted to read was just so much fun! Then, when I got home I could curl up on the couch and read for hours; and when I was done I could go back to the bookstore and purchase the next book in the series. Nowadays, I find myself going to the bookstore less frequently. I order paperback copies online, and have the books shipped to my house which is more convenient. But, I do miss the fun trips to the bookstore. Nevertheless – I think that reading paperback books has its own charm and excitement that cannot be replaced by an electronic book. Holding the physical copy of the book in my hands, and flipping each page makes the reading experience so much more real and memorable. For this reason, I personally prefer reading print copy books.

On the other hand, e-books seem to be more convenient than print books. Purchasing an e-book can take place in a matter of seconds and these books are often priced less expensively than print copy books. Then again, in order to read e-books one must have a particular device – tablet, iPad, Kindle or laptop to read it on. Thus, an additional payment has to be made in order to have access to e-books, whereas reading print copies does not involve any extra device. With e-books, there most likely isn’t going to be a storage problem, unless the device has a limit on how many books can be purchased.

However, with print copies – one can easily run out of bookshelf space. I personally have books stackedall over the shelf in my office, in my room, and some stored in boxes. I just love being surrounded by all my books and occasionally find myself flipping through old copies and reminiscing all the exciting childhood memories (#bookworm).

In the end, I believe it comes down to personal preference. Some people love the accessibility and inexpensiveness of e-books. Others enjoy the warmth involved with reading a good old-fashioned paperback copy. There’s no right or wrong option. Ultimately, the best part of having a book in the first place is reading it! And even though the world of e-books is rapidly becoming more prevalent – I do believe there will always be an opportunity to sit back, relax, and enjoy reading a nice paperback book.

I’m interested in hearing what you think about print books versus e-books so please feel free to comment below and share your insight!

— Nedda B., currently reading Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Tweets of the Week: August 21st

Fri, 08/21/2015 - 07:00

Here is a roundup of the tweets of the week:


Pop Culture


Just for Fun!

-Katie Shanahan Yu, currently reading The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

One Thing Leads to Another: An Interview with Ernest Cline

Thu, 08/20/2015 - 07:00

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

When composing an email to Ernest Cline it’s tempting to start babbling about your own geeky passions and experiences, to document the ways in which they overlap or intersect with things you’ve heard him talk about.  It’s tempting to point out all the ways in which you had similar experiences, were born just years apart, watched that movie at about the same time, have daughters who are almost the same age.  It’s really tempting to talk about how you read that he did X, and how you also did and/or loved this X-adjacent thing that is very similar or possibly exactly the same and wow I can’t believe you remember Y because I thought I was the only one who played/read/saw/loved that thing.  It’s really tempting, but you don’t do it.

Instead, you stare at your gmail inbox and wonder about that impulse, the desire to share and connect and gush, and you come to the conclusion that while it’s not really appropriate in this particular case, the impulse itself is just fine. Pretty great even.  Because the impulse is not about geek cred, or one-upsmanship, or a “notice me notice me” mentality.  It’s really about bonding, about the power of–to paraphrase some other famous nerds–being “unironically enthusiastic” about stuff, “being honest about what you enjoy” and being willing to raise your hand and say, “Hey! I LOVE this! Do you maybe love it too?”even when the thing you love isn’t necessarily cool or even geek-cool.  Geek solidarity is about unapologetically loving the stuff you love, and connecting with other people who love stuff and are unapologetic too.  Felicia Day says being a geek is “more than the hobbies we do or the things that we like,” that a geek is an “outsider, a rebel, a dreamer, a creator, whether it’s our own world or someone else’s. It’s a fighter. It’s a person who dares to love something that isn’t conventional.”  I don’t know if I embody all those bold ideas, but I know that Ernie Cline inspires this kind of geek camaraderie through the sheer force of his knowledge and passion and vocal enthusiasm.  Read Ready Player One or Armada and tell me you don’t want to immediately sit down and discuss the minutae of arcade games, Schoolhouse Rock, or The Last Starfighter.  I know you want to.

I know that even when you try you’re bound to slip a reference to that text-based 80s computer game or that semi-obscure cult film into your email to him even though you’re trying desperately to be “professional.” I know that it will be impossible not to gush a little bit (or a lot) and that he will be really cool about it anyway.  Probably because geek solidarity, probably because he’s a cool guy.

Thanks, Ernie, for taking the time to talk with me.  MTFBWYA (too.)

Always Something There to Remind Me

Author photo by Dan Winters

Please describe your teenage self.

I was a socially awkward kid who spent most of his free time immersed in video games, science fiction novels, or playing Dungeons & Dragons with my equally geeky friends.

What did you want to be when you grew up? Why?

I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Initially, I wanted to write for the movies. At the time, it seemed like one of the coolest jobs imaginable. Film had a profound effect on my worldview, and on the culture at large, and I knew I wanted to be involved in the art form somehow, if I could.

What were your high school years like?

Like the characters in my novels, I spent a lot of time staring out the classroom window and daydreaming of adventure. I also wrote for the school literary magazine and newspaper a couple of years. My English teacher in Junior High, Mr. Craig Whitmore, was a huge influence on me. He was the first teacher of mine to encourage me to pursue a career as a writer. We’re still friends to this day. He’s become a novelist now, too.

What were some of your passions during that time?

I was a varsity letterman on the swim team, but I was never a very good athlete. As I said above, when I wasn’t in school, I spent most of my time playing Advanced Dungeons & Dragons with my friends, hanging out in video game arcades, or scouring the local video stores for movies I hadn’t already seen. I read a lot of Heinlein and Bradbury and Bester, then I got really interested in Kurt Vonnegut my senior year.

Would you be willing to share a difficult teen experience or challenge that you feel shaped the adult you became?

My brother and I were adopted by our biological grandparents when we were both very young, and since they lived through the Great Depression, I think they raised us to have a different set of values (and fashion sense) than most of our peers. It seemed difficult at the time, because when you’re young you desperately want to fit in with your peers. But now I’m extremely grateful for the non-traditional upbringing they gave us, because I think it instilled us both with a strong sense of self-reliance, which I think has probably played a key role in both my and my brother’s success.

What about a positive experience or accomplishment that had an impact on your adult self?

I recall having a few of my English teachers single out my short stories in class. I remember they would occasionally read my work aloud to the others students, which was a bit humiliating at the time, but I think it eventually also did wonders for my self-esteem.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten? Did you heed that advice?

The best advice I’ve ever received is to treat other people how you wish to be treated. That really is the Golden Rule. I still do my best to follow it every day.

Do you have any regrets about your teen years? Anything left undone or anything that might have been better left undone?

Not in the slightest. To regret any part of my past would be to regret taking the path that led me to where I am now. Most regrets are a waste of time and energy. I learned that lesson from It’s A Wonderful Life when I was still very young

What, if anything, do you miss most about that time?

I’m nostalgic for that time, but I don’t really miss living in it. Being a teenager is one of the most difficult and precarious times in your life. You’re expected to behave like an adult, even though you’re still not being treated like one, and you’re still not in control of your own destiny. I wouldn’t want to have to go through it again – even with foreknowledge of the future.

Every Day I Write the Book

Questions about your work are often framed in terms of plot, inspiration, and pop cultural references, but I’d like to know more about how you build your characters and about the characters that inspire you. “My characters are all kind of geek archetypes of people I’ve encountered at gaming and comic book conventions,” you’ve said, though you also talk about trying your best “to get under [their] skin,” to create individuals rather than stereotypes.  Could you talk a little about your writing process when it comes to character?  How do you negotiate the line between archetype (of the geek or Campbell variety) and distinct, idiosyncratic characters?  Besides Luke Skywalker (a strong early influence that you’ve talked elsewhere) which characters from books, movies, games, etc. resonate or inspire you the most?

I create characters by drawing on my own life experience and my own interactions with other people, which is what I think all writers have to do. I’ve found that if I imbue my characters with the same mix of same strengths, flaws, desires, and idiosyncrasies I encounter in myself and in other people in my life, they eventually reveal themselves and take on a life of their own. Back when I was in high school, I think the literary characters who resonated with me the most were Frodo, Ender Wiggin, and Holden Caulfield. Eventually, I became a big Billy Pilgrim fan.

You’ve talked elsewhere about your theory that video games help humans “wired to hunt and gather and form teams and kick ass and conquer territory and be explorers” harness that “hunter-gatherer energy by other means.” Those same hunter-gatherers sat around the campfire “long before we had superhero movies” telling hero stories to fulfill another fundamental human need.  “Video games have two different storytelling mediums,” you’ve said, “but both can transport the player into the role of hero.”  Could you talk a little more about the intersection of games and story and about why and how that combination can be so powerful?  How does a game successfully immerse you in the story and are there games you’ve become really invested in, story-wise?

I think being told a story via a videogame is so powerful because of the interactive element. You’re a participant in the story, and your actions help influence its direction and outcome – resulting in an experience that can be just as profound and affecting as a novel or a film, if not moreso. My favorite games from a storytelling standpoint are probably Half-Life 2, and Portal 1 & 2. Both games used the First-Person Shooter perspective to tell very human stories that involve a lot more than pointing and shooting.

You’re a self-described fanboy, but you’ve never been much of a passive consumer, engaging with work you love in all kinds of ways, from writing a movie sequel screenplay, to collecting unusual memorabilia (a sedate way of saying you own a tricked-out DeLorean), to participating in once-in-a-lifetime events like the recent Atari Graveyard dig. This impulse to contribute seems to have started early, despite the relative isolation of pre-Internet fandom, and I’m curious about the kind of fan community you found back in those days, and whether the desire to connect with other fans pushed you to cross the line from passive consumer to active participant? Has the Internet-fueled shift in the cultural and technological landscape over the past decade changed the way you view or participate in fandom, as a fan and as a creator?  Does active participation in various fandoms change the way you view your own work once it’s released out into the wild?

I had a tight-knit group of friends growing up who were all interested in the same things I was, and together we attended a lot of local and national roleplaying game and comic book conventions, so I became a part of various fan communities early on. I also subscribed to magazines like Dragon and Starlog, which provided me with a steady supply of geek media news updates, the way websites and social media do now. I think I was always blessed with a creative impulse, even back then. Seeing Star Wars made me want to become a filmmaker. Playing Space Invaders made me want to create my own video game someday. Reading Tolkien and Stephen King made me want to try writing a novel of my own someday. The Internet definitely changed the cultural landscape for me, by connecting all of these different fan communities together, all around the world, thereby revealing how vast and far-reaching those communities were and are.

The Internet revealed that Geeks are Legion, and that pretty much everyone loves to geek out about something. That’s been a huge revelation for me.

You’ve talked about how becoming a parent has changed your outlook on life, made you more invested in the future, and turned you into more of an optimist. “I want my little girl to be able to go to college. I don’t want her to have to wield a crossbow and skin a house cat to survive,” you said in a recent interview (and it’s hard to disagree.) How do you see this new-found hopefulness–a shift that’s evident in the relative viewpoints of Ready Player One and Armada–affecting your work going forward?  Do technological advances like Oculus Rift make you more mindful of the real-world consequences of your work?

I’m not sure how it will affect my work going forward. It’s still easy for me to feel pessimistic about the future, especially when I see world leaders who still pretend climate change isn’t real. These days, I’m more cautiously optimistic. And yes, advances like the Oculus Rift have made me aware of the real-world influence a science fiction writer like me can have. It also makes me feel a little like Arthur C. Clarke, predicting the satellite before it was actually invented. Of course, he couldn’t predict everything we would end up using those satellites for in the long term.

Just Can’t Get Enough

Question from Matt de la Pena: Ready Player One was a huge hit. My friends and I all love it. My wife loves it (and she’s a very critical and sometimes mean-spirited reader – but that’s another story.) Writing a second novel is hard enough. Did the success of your first book make the process of the second even more challenging?

Most definitely! I felt like Van Halen must’ve felt during the recording of Van Halen II. While I was writing my second novel, I often joked about using “Sophomore Slump” as the working title for a while. But I had to set all of the praise and expectations aside and once again try to write the kind of story I myself would enjoy reading.  Ignoring the Internet completely was a huge help.


Ernie has contributed a question for the next author in the series, Patrick Ness.  Watch for an interview with him coming soon!


Ernest Cline is a novelist, screenwriter, father, and full-time geek. His first novel, Ready Player One, was a New York Times and USA Today bestseller, appeared on numerous “best of the year” lists, and is set to be adapted into a motion picture by Warner Bros. and director Steven Spielberg.  Armada, his New York Times bestselling second novel, has received multiple starred reviews.  Ernie lives in Austin, Texas, with his family, a time-traveling DeLorean, and a large collection of classic video games.

You can find Ernie at his website and blog, on Facebook, or you can follow him on Twitter or tumblr.


–Julie Bartel, currently reading Frances Hardinge’s The Cuckoo Song and Through the Woods by Emily Carroll