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Updated: 4 hours 26 min ago

ALA Annual 2014: Kicking off the Coverage

Thu, 07/03/2014 - 07:00

The ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas has drawn to a close, and what a whirlwind of activity it was! More than 13,000 attendees were there to explore the over 2,500 presentations, meetings, and discussion groups, and exhibits available during the event. Over the next few days, we’ll be posting lots of great coverage of YA lit events at ALA Annual, so stay tuned– even if you couldn’t make it this time, you’ll feel like you were there too!

I’m kicking off our event coverage by setting the stage with some scenes from around the conference.

Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas!

Attendees at the Odyssey Award Ceremony were given a terrifying Scowler mask as seen on the cover of this year’s Odyssey Award winning audiobook Scowler, written by Daniel Kraus and narrated by Kirby Heyborne, and were encouraged to take and share a #scowlerselfie!

The Exhibit Hall

There’s always an enthusiastic crowd waiting to enter the Exhibit Hall on Friday evening. Not gonna lie– the thought of this sea of people rushing in to explore the vendors’ booths was more than a little terrifying. But it went surprisingly smoothly once the doors opened, and there were lots of great books to see and learn about at the publishers’ booths.


In the days leading up to the conference, we reported about the #DiversityatALA movement, and I’m pleased to say I saw lots of intriguing titles featuring diversity of all types, including cultural, ethnic, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability. I talked to publicists at a wide variety of publishers’ booths, and every single one had great recommendations for me when I inquired about their upcoming diverse titles. It was exciting! I very much got the sense that we will be seeing more diverse YA lit in the coming seasons.

Here are some other ALA attendees’ experiences with #DiversityatALA:




Sharing Personal Expression

One of the fun things to see at ALA conferences is the Graffiti #UnWall, where attendees are invited to write anything they like. It’s a free space for librarians, library workers, library supporters, and book lovers to come together and visibly share their enthusiasm for everything libraries stand for, make collaborative jokes, or just jot down their happy thought for the day.


There was a lot of this going on at the conference… and of course, stopping to charge your phone is also an opportunity for networking and conversation– and sharing about what ARCs you picked up that you’re most looking forward to reading!

Your Friendly Neighborhood Hub Bloggers

These are some of the people who make The Hub such a great resource for YA literature– and we want to thank YOU for reading our posts and sharing our love of books!

We’ll have more posts coming soon about ALA Annual in Vegas. In the meantime, mark your 2015 calendars for June 15-30 for ALA Annual in San Francisco!

-Allison Tran, currently reading Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

Great Britain Across The Genres

Wed, 07/02/2014 - 07:00

London bus by E01. CC BY-SA 2.0.

Great Britain has always been a popular setting in all types and genres of literature. While I have read many books set there over the years, I never really thought about exactly how many books I enjoy are set in Great Britain until I started planning a trip to England and Scotland. But as I did start reflecting on some of my favorites, I realized how integral the British setting is to many great YA books across multiple genres. Whether you are an Anglophile looking for a new read, or are simply interested in reading books set there before planning your own trip, this list offers great British settings for fans of all genres.

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson (2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults- Rory Deveaux isn’t sure what to expect when she moves from the U.S. South to a boarding school in London, but it definitely isn’t getting caught up in a series of horrifying killings copying those of Jack the Ripper. When she becomes a key witness to one of the crimes, Rory gets dragged into the case and might even become his next victim if she isn’t careful. In this, the first of the Shades of London series, plot twists and laughs both come fast and furious. You won’t be able to stop with just one book; but if you start now, there is still plenty of time to catch up with the first two books before the next one comes out early next year. 

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde (2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults) - The first young adult book from Jasper Fforde, the author of the Thursday Next books, this story combines Fforde’s particular brand of off-kilter humor with a fun story of a world where magic exists but is slowly fading away. Teenage Jennifer Strange is struggling to keep a magic business afloat in this environment when it is revealed that a dragon has been found. As questions arise around who will slay this dragon, Jennifer finds her unexpected place in the world. If you enjoy this book, you might also want to try books by Tom Holt or Terry Pratchett.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (Readers Choice Nominee 2011) - Combining vintage photographs with a fantastical story of children who have unusual powers, Riggs creates a creepy and bizarre story set primarily on an island off the coast of Wales. The remote setting as well as the main character’s isolation contributes to a sense of uncertainty throughout the book, which helps to explain why this book remained on the New York Times Best Seller list for so long.

Science Fiction
How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff (Printz Award Winner 2005) – When Daisy is sent to London to visit her aunt and cousins, she expects an adventure, but she could never anticipate the horror of what happens. After bombs go off in London while her aunt is away, the children are left to fend for themselves as the country descends into war. While the exact time and the reasons for the war are left vague, the book feels like it could be happening in modern day England, which contributes to its power.

Expiration Day by William Campbell Powell – Set in a future where birthrates have declined to dangerous levels and robots have been developed to fill the void for couples who want to have children, this book is a fascinating and wholly original consideration of the line between robots and humans and what it means to be “real.” It is told entirely from the point of view (and mostly through the diary) of Tania Deeley, a creative young girl who lives a life surrounded by hidden robots never knowing which of the children around her is human and which are not. Powell navigates Tania’s voice particularly well as she matures and grows over the course of the book. It is a great option for those with an interest in robots and the moral issues they could bring with them.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams – While not technically considered a young adult book and with much of the action taking place in space, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy may seem like an odd choice for this list, and yet I couldn’t leave it off. A classic in both the science fiction and humor genres, this book follows Arthur Dent, a quintessential English man as his day goes from bad to worse as he discovers that first his house and then his planet are slated for destruction. This might not sound like the funniest premise, but in the hands of Douglas Adams, it is laugh-out-loud funny, which explains why it has spawned a TV show, a radio show, a movie and even a video game. If you haven’t read this one yet, do so immediately!

Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith – Missing a flight is rarely a good thing, but when Hadley Sullivan does just that on the way to her father’s wedding in London, she finds herself stuck in JFK airport with Oliver, a British boy who is headed home. When they arrive in London and are separated, Hadley is disappointed that she will never see him again, but might fate have more in store for them? If you’ve already read this one, check out Smith’s new book, The Geography of You and Me, which takes place partially in Scotland.

Westminster Abby by Micol Ostow – Strong-armed into a summer abroad in London by her overprotective parents who want to get her away from her (now former) boyfriend, Abby arrives with mixed feelings. But, she decides that she wants to break out of her shell. As she makes new friends, changes up her style, and flirts with another student at her school, she starts to really enjoy her time in England. But, when her ex-boyfriend shows up, Abby must decide what is most important to her.

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson (Best Books for Young Adults 2006) – When Ginny’s beloved aunt passes away, she leaves a challenge for Ginny: follow the instructions in thirteen different envelopes. Designed to push Ginny out of her comfort zone and send her on international travels, the first task is to fly immediately to London. From there, she embarks on a life-changing adventure that takes her far and wide, but ultimately brings her back to London.

Historical Fiction
Gilt by Katherine Longshore – Set in the court of King Henry VIII, this book follows Kitty Tylney as her close friend Catherine Howard makes her way into King Henry VIII’s court and heart. Filled with love interests for both Catherine and Kitty, beautiful gowns, secrets, intrigue and more, this book will appeal to fans of romance and historical fiction. It is also a great book to recommend to fans of the CW’s Reign.

Cinders & Sapphires by Leila Rasheed – With a strong Downton Abbey vibe, this book and its sequel, Diamonds & Deceit, show an England populated by both rich estate owners and their servants. These books tackle both historical and modern issues, including England’s actions in their colonies, financial struggles, and issues of diversity. But, this is not to say that they are dry. On the contrary, they are also full of secrets, lies, intrigue and romance.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (2013 Printz Honor book) – As this novel opens you will think that it is a simple story about female pilots and prisoners of war in England during World War II; but as you are slowly absorbed into this superbly plotted and suspenseful novel you come to realize that there is more to the story than you realized. A stunning read even for those who do not usually gravitate towards historical fiction.

She is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick – This one is cheating a bit since only the very beginning of the book takes place in England, but since the main characters are British, I decided to include it. This book follows Laureth Peak and her brother Benjamin as they run away from England to track down their author father who has disappeared in New York. Given Benjamin’s age, Laureth must rely largely on her own investigative skills, despite the fact that she is blind. The puzzle at the heart of this book will keep you turning pages and Sedgwick’s descriptions bring alive both the settings and the characters.

Secret Letters by Leah Scheier – What would you do if Sherlock Holmes might be your father? For Dora, the answer is travel to London to find the sleuth and convince him to help her solve a mystery. But, when she arrives in the city to discover that the great detective has died, she must rely on her own investigative skills and those of a young man who also hopes to one day become a detective if she wants to solve her mystery.

The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd – How can anyone disappear from the London Eye? That is the question at the heart of this book. When Ted’s cousin Salim got on the London Eye but doesn’t get off, he sets off a panic amongst the family and also prompts Ted to use his unique way of viewing the world to partner with his sister Kat to track him down. Told entirely from the point of view of Ted, this book gives a window into the life of a person who views the world very differently and offers an engaging mystery to go with this strong voice.

Have I missed any of your favorite books set in Great Britain? Do you also find yourself reading books set in countries where you hope to travel? Let me know in the comments!

- Carli Spina, currently reading Un Lun Dun by China Miéville

What Would They Read?: Parks and Recreation

Tue, 07/01/2014 - 07:00

Those of you familiar with the lives of the employees of the Pawnee Parks Department know how they feel about the Pawnee Public Library.  The presence of Ron Swanson’s crazy ex wife, Tammy, doesn’t help to mend the fences between these two village departments.  However, I would like to believe that this rivalry between the parks Department and the library would in no way hinder Leslie Knope and staff in their love of reading.  I mean, obviously they would probably have to get their books through Amazon or a bookstore so as not to encounter Tammy.  Let’s see what books the Parks Department would read!

Leslie Knope – Leslie is a very powerful woman who strives at excellence in everything she does.  When I think about Leslie, I immediately think of Frankie Landau-Banks.  In 2009 Printz Honor book The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart, Frankie orchestrates a mission to infiltrate The Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds, an all-male secret society on her school campus, of which her boyfriend is a member.  Of course, being a member is not enough for Frankie’s ambition.  Instead, she starts to design school pranks and directs the Bassets in carrying them out.  Frankie is definitely a teen Leslie would be proud of if she were a citizen of Pawnee.  Another title that I would set aside for Leslie is Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer.  Bauer’s story includes a mayoral race in a small town.  When Hope moves to the small Wisconsin town from a fairly big city, she does not expect to get caught up in the situations of her new home.  However, when the owner of the diner she works at decides to run for mayor against a corrupt politician, Hope jumps into local politics with both feet.  Bauer’s book combines two of Leslie’s loves: politics and diners.

Ben Wyatt – While Leslie is more serious and set on addressing the issues of Pawnee, Ben is a bit more on the whimsical side of things. When he was eighteen-years-old and mayor of a small town in Minnesota, he tried to create Ice Town, which failed miserably.  He also loves board games and video games.  I would give Ben the recently published book, Guy in Real Life by Steve Brezenoff.  This story follows the two gamers, Lesh and Svetlana, who meet both in real life and in an MMO game world.  Also, the book takes place in Ben’s home state of Minnesota.  While I don’t know if Ben would want to read this next book for fun, I do feel like he can relate to the main character and commiserate over their similarities.  Janet Tashjian’s second book in her Larry trilogy called Vote for Larry, follows the story of a teen boy who has such a following that he eventually runs for president.  Things aren’t exactly what he expected them to be.

April Ludgate – April brings sarcasm to an entirely new level.  Everything she says is snarky and leaves people unsure of what she truly meant to say.  If the main character of Struck by Lightning by Chris Colfer and April were to have a conversation, bystanders would be amazed as the sarcasm storm created by the two.  Therefore, I would definitely have to give her Colfer’s book.  April shows compassion to only two things.  The first is her lovable, clueless husband Andy.  Other than Andy, April cares about animals.  Animals, particularly dogs, were the first things to ever get April to show effort in her role at the Parks Department.  Because of that interest, I would give her Straydog by Kathe Koja.  In Koja’s novel, a moody teen who doesn’t fit into the cliques at her school begins to volunteer at a local animal shelter.  April shows her softer side in her relationship with her rescued dog, Champion, and the other dogs in need of homes in Pawnee. See April, we knew you didn’t hate everything.

Andy Dwyer – Andy is clueless about a lot of things except for his wife April, his band Mouserat, and his desire to be in law enforcement.  In response to his love of music and his goofy personality, I would recommend Dogbreath Victorious by Chad Henry.  I’m sure Andy would get excited just by the name of the band, being as it is similar to his band, Mouserat.  In Dogbreath Victorious, Tim’s band Dogbreath is ready to win Seattle’s Battle of the Bands.  He did not expect to be beaten by anyone, especially not The Angry Housewives, a band started by his own mother.  Andy loves to put on the persona of Bert Macklin, FBI agent.  Occasionally he will act as Bert opposite a femme  fatale role portrayed by April.  Dear Killer by Katherine Ewell is the story of a serial killer named Kit who has perfected the art of murder through anonymous letters directing her to her next victim.  This definitely sounds like a case for Bert Macklin, FBI!

Stay tuned for the next installment of What Would They Read?: Parks and Recreation.  What book would Ron Swanson cuddle up with after a long day of widdling?  Can I find a book that is cool enough for Tom’s rep?

Brandi Smits

Currently Reading: The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp

The Monday Poll: Best Soccer Game in YA Lit

Mon, 06/30/2014 - 01:14

image courtesy of marianne.h on Flickr

Good morning, Hub readers!

Last week, we asked which summer sequel you’re most looking forward to this season. Your top pick was Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater, with 33% of the vote- and you don’t have long to wait, since that book is out on July 1! Many of you are also looking forward to yolo by Lauren Myracle, which took in 19% of the vote. You can see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive. Thanks to all of you who voted!

World Cup fever has taken hold, and this week we want you to weigh in on which book features the best soccer game in YA lit. Cast your vote from the choices below, or add your suggestions in the comments!

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


ALA Annual 2014: Best Fiction for Young Adults Teen Feedback Session

Sat, 06/28/2014 - 14:30

Want to get real teen input on some of the best recent titles in YA fiction? The Best Fiction for Young Adults Teen Feedback Session at ALA Annual is the place to be! Local Las Vegas area teens have been reading the BFYA nominations and are here at the conference to weigh in with their thoughts as the BFYA committee and other interested librarians observe. These teens are always sharp, witty, and honest, and the BFYA Teen Feedback Session is a highlight of the conference for many avid YA lit readers.

If you can’t be here in person, the next best way to experience this session is via the #bfya hashtag on Twitter. Follow along and tweet your thoughts– we’re streaming the hashtag here on The Hub for your convenience, and the real action starts at 1:00 pm Pacific time when the session kicks off. Enjoy!


What Would They Read?: My Little Pony (Part Two)

Fri, 06/27/2014 - 07:00

from deviantart user bluedragonhans

Welcome back! As I mentioned before, the television reboot of the My Little Pony franchise (Friendship Is Magic) has managed to find an older audience than one would expect. I am both a regular viewer and frequent reader of YA lit, so I thought it would be fun to take a look at what teen titles the ponies would read in their free time.

I have continued to select books featuring female protagonists, in keeping with many of the themes found in Friendship Is Magic.

Today, I am finishing up the main group of ponies with custom lists for Applejack, Fluttershy, and Pinkie Pie.

from deviantart user autumn-spice


Applejack is a strong farm pony who can often be found kicking apple trees to collect the fruit or performing other tasks around the orchard. She seems to prefer physical activities over dress-up, and is successful in tasks that would often be considered more traditional for a male. Because of this, I thought she may enjoy reading Miranda Kenneally’s books that feature female characters participating in sports that are often male-dominated. I think she would start with Racing Savannah because of the equestrian connection, but really Catching Jordan or Stealing Parker would be as appropriate.

I also think that she may be interested in Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins. Now, Applejack may not be a debutante, but she certainly is southern (the whole Apple family has southern twangs!). Rebel Belle features a female lead, Harper, who is charged with protecting a male character. This reminds me of how often Applejack ends up having to save the day on her apple farm instead of leaving it to her older brother, who is larger in size and appears to be the physically stronger pony. 

from deviantart user datnaro


Fluttershy is a sensitive soul. She is a great friend who is always looking out for others throughout Equestria. I selected To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (Jenny Han, 2014 BFYA Nominee) for her because it is, simply, a sweet story. The main character, Lara Jean, is kind and caring with a big heart. She loves her family and friends fiercely, but she still makes mistakes, as we all do. Add in Lara Jean’s campaign to get her little sister the dog she has always wanted and I believe Fluttershy would adore this book.

When it comes to the animals of Ponyville, everypony knows that Fluttershy is the one to see. She is often found with Angel (her small white rabbit) and a wide assortment of other woodlands creatures. Because of this, it seems obvious that Fluttershy would be interested in reading YA that contains animals. However, Fluttershy’s relationship really is more than just caretaking, she is able to communicate with them in a unique manner, including using The Stare, so I wanted to select reading materials that had a deeper connection. In Pullman’s classic His Dark Materials trilogy, each human is paired with a daemon, the physical manifestation of the human’s soul (as defined by The Golden Compass Wiki), including the main character, Lyra Silvertongue’s pine marten daemon named Pantalaimon. I think Fluttershy would appreciate the importance of the animal companions in these stories and how the characters interact with them.

from deviantart user peachspices

Pinkie Pie

Pinkie Pie loves to laugh and have fun. She is always planning parties and trying to bring some humor to all situations. She can even be found wearing a Groucho glasses disguise or performing as a one-pony band. I selected the following three books for Pinkie Pie based on these characteristics. They are all funny books that will make readers laugh out loud. Although they are all different in style and plot, between physical gags and quick-witted wording, these three books are great for raising everypony’s spirits. Pinkie Pie is not likely to reach for The Fault in Our Stars, but even if she did, she would need a solid dose of funny to wash it down.

Thanks for checking out my picks for the ponies! Feel free to share your recommendations in the comments.

- Jessica Lind, currently reading The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Kate Rorick and Bernie Su

Tweets of the Week: June 27th

Fri, 06/27/2014 - 07:00

The YA lit world has suffered a great loss this week with the passing of Annie on My Mind author, Nancy Garden. Her stories and honesty touched and inspired many readers. She will be missed. This week we start with the Twitter tributes to her. Here is a round up of what’s been happening in the Twitter-verse:


RIP Nancy Garden 





-Katie Shanahan Yu, currently reading A Spark Unseen by Sharon Cameron

100 Years Ago: World War I

Thu, 06/26/2014 - 07:00

Almost 100 years to the day (June 28th, to be exact), the world lost a man and the world would change forever. I’m not sure what would have happened if the Archduke Franz Ferdinand hadn’t been shot and killed. Would the world have collapsed into war eventually, or could it have been avoided somehow?  His death triggered the domino effect that led to the Great War which devastated the world, killing more than 9 million soldiers.

If you want to learn more about World War I, take a look at these nonfiction books:

World War I for Kids by R. Kent Rasmussen
Despite the name, this book is perfect for older readers with an in-depth look at the war; the causes of war, secret treaties, tactics of war, the war itself, the home front, and the aftermath from all perspectives. Photos, sidebars, activities, and maps break up the text.

Stubby the War Dog by Ann Bausum
Great for animal lovers, this book shares the story of how one dog from Connecticut found his way to Europe.  He helped out keeping watch for the men, warning the men of attacks, and soothing aching hearts. Wounded once, he went back to the line of duty to his friends and to his family. He’s still in the hearts and minds of those who knew him and a whole generation just learning about him now.

World War I: the definitive visual history from Sarajevo to Versailles by R.G. Grant
A great in-depth read filled with lots of photographs, timelines, maps, personal accounts, and with profiles on key figures and leaders of the war. There’s something for everyone in this book for historical readers of all expertise.

Women Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics by Kathryn J. Atwood.
Most of these women helped change the world, even though they couldn’t vote and were looked upon as second class citizens. The women range from lady to peasant, soldier to journalist, and young to old. There’s no doubt that all these women were brave and daring. Pictures and personal stories of each woman are woven into the narrative to make it more compelling.



~ Jennifer Rummel Currently Reading Weird but True! Ripped from the Headlines from National Geographic Kids

One Thing Leads to Another: An Interview with E. Lockhart

Thu, 06/26/2014 - 07:00

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

It would be easy for me to jot down a list of my earliest and most formative books, books that resonated in some deep way, that seeped into my subconscious and became part of what I think of as me in my earliest incarnation–books I read (or had read to me) when I was four, five, six years old.  My list would include things like the Green Knowe series by L.M. Boston, the Oz books, Edward Eager and E. Nesbit–you get the idea.   My 5 1/2 year old daughter Nora loves many of my favorite books already, which is wonderful in a whole new way, and sharing my special books with her is one of the best things ever.  But you know what was even better?  Watching her discover a new special series of her own and I have the amazing E. Lockhart, who also writes under the name Emily Jenkins, to thank for that.

The Toys Go Out books weren’t around when I was a kid, so reading them was new for both of us.  Nora was enthralled.  She requested her own Stingray and Lumpy, and after an angst-filled week of agonizing over whether the other kids would understand, she took them in a little backpack to her very first show-and-tell.  She had rehearsed exactly what she wanted to say, including telling them about her favorite chapter, “Chapter Four: The Terrifying Bigness of the Washing Machine,” and it all went perfectly; her love and excitement was glorious.  We read Toy Dance Party and then Toys Come Home, the final book in the series. 

I don’t think I can convey what it was like, reading that last chapter aloud, watching the words sink slowly into her psyche and become part of her in a way that was totally her.  She got it and it mattered to her and it was brilliant and made me want to laugh and cry at the same time.  Sometimes when she echoes the words or sentiment of that last chapter I know she means to quote the book; sometimes the words pour out and they just come from her, because they’re her words now too.  There’s a thoughtful and generous piece of her personality that is pretty much a direct result of Stingray and Lumpy and the wisdom of Plastic.  I mean, just a couple weeks ago I overheard her explain to a teacher that it was important to help a sad friend because “we are here for each other.  That’s the whole point.”  Can you even?

Someday I’ll introduce her to Roo and Gretchen and Cady and especially Frankie and we’ll share that too, and I can’t wait.  But until then, I’m taking this opportunity to say thank you, Emily, for giving me that moment, and for giving Nora those ideas.  If you need us, we’ll be in the linen closet, with our friends.

Always Something There to Remind Me

Please describe your teenage self.

I was voted worst driver in my senior class. My American literature teacher got angry at me for writing our Thoreau essay as a parody. I wore blue mascara.  I was terrifically ambitious and had no idea what to do with that ambition.

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

I wanted to be an actress but by senior year of high school I realized I didn’t really have it in me to be a good one.  I wrote about this realization in Dramarama.

What were some of your passions during that time?

Boys. I was really interested in boys.

What were your high school years like?

I went to an arts high school in Seattle where I was miserable. Then I went to prep school and was happy.  The one school was dingy and competitive and socially toxic, whereas the other was bright and outdoorsy and charity-minded.  At neither school did my teachers single me out. Teachers have never much liked me. An adult who influenced my life was my boyfriend’s mother. (I know, I told you boys were my primary interest –  and it’s true — but by senior year I had settled down for a bit.)  This woman was a strong character, and she liked me. She used to lounge on her deck in a bikini and drink wine with dinner. Sometimes she’d yell about stuff and she always had cookies in the cookie jar. But she was also a well-known judge, so fierce on the bench people called her “the dragon lady.”  She appeared completely unafraid of being disliked, and in that way was a really fantastic role model. 

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

I grew up with a single mother, and she had just finished grad school when I started on scholarship at the prep school. I felt embarrassed to bring my new rich friends home to our little place. Their houses were palatial, to my eye.  When I finally did bring people home, though, I realized they didn’t care one bit how big or small my kitchen was, or whether we had a yard. They came over to my house because they were my friends.  To good people, appearances don’t matter. And  yet, class differences will still be interesting to me, probably forever.

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

I went to Planned Parenthood and got protection before I had sex. I am very thankful that I did.  I am sure it changed the course of my life.

What advice, if any, would you give your teen self?  Would your teen self have listened?

The playwright Michael Weller told me not to go to acting school but to study a subject other than drama in college if I wanted to act: religion or philosophy or history or something else that would deepen my understanding and cultural literacy.  I am very glad I listened to him.

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

I regret a number of instances where I was unkind or oblivious to people’s pain.  But I learned from those times, from the consequences of those actions, so perhaps I do not really regret them.

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

I am very glad to be an adult.  Sometimes I rage against my aging, aching body, but I wouldn’t trade it for the inexperienced, transitioning adolescent one I had back then.  In part, We Were Liars is about a girl who suffers chronic migraine pain, and I meant that pain to operate as a metaphor for how intense it is for teenagers to be trapped in a quickly changing body that does not always serve them well.  I had a comparatively easy life as a young person, but being a teenager is a difficult and raw time, no matter what.

Every Day I Write the Book

You earned a doctorate in English literature (focusing on the 19th century British novel and the history of British book illustration) and have discussed your qualified respect for the literary canon.  What influence does the canon have on your own work?  I’m also intrigued by what you’ve said about the ways in which fandom reinterprets classic literature and the brief discussion on your site about how “popular literature and entertainment often become canonized over time.”  Could you talk a bit about the connections between YA literature, fandom, and classic literature, and about the shifting line “between highbrow and lowbrow entertainment?”

Much literature that is solidly canonized now was popular culture in its day.  In the 18th and even 19th century, the novel itself was a lowbrow form, suitable only for silly women. Educated readers wanted knowledge and logic. They consumed history and science, read things in Latin, whatever.  Now, we study the novel and its history at our most elite institutions.  Dickens was a super-popular writer of sentimental and sometimes sensationalist fiction. Now we think of him as educational and important for all educated people to know about. There are lots of reasons texts get canonized. Political and didactic and practical and institutional reasons. The canonization of 20th- and 21st century books is happening right now, as teachers in middle schools, high schools and colleges choose books to teach in classes. Forms that seem lowbrow to higher-education institutions now may seem highbrow to later generations,  following the same trajectory as the novel.  It is happening with film, already. We will probably see the canonization of graphic novels, YA novels, children’s books, and comic books, among other forms.

“I think teen readers adore structural and stylistic experimentation… [and] have a blast reading stylized voices and narratives that experiment beyond traditional structures,” you said in a recent interview, adding that you see your most recent book, We Were Liars, as “part of a continuum of YA novels that play with perception and expectations while doing something structurally or narratively unusual.”  You’ve experimented with structure and viewpoint in other novels as well and have hinted that your next book will be told backwards.  I’m wondering what inspires you to take a nontraditional approach to style or narrative structure?  How do storytelling and structure influence each other in your work and at what point in your writing process are you able to identify the structure that feels right?

I am influenced by post-modern novels and by the internet and by comic books and movies and plays and stand-up comics and musical theater lyrics — but I am probably most influenced by techniques used by 19th-century novelists like Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë — which are still used by many writers today.   As a reader, I like a strong narrative through-line and a bit of mystery and a protagonist to care about, and I work hard to put those in my books. The storytelling is first and foremost.  The rest is glitter and frosting and pop music and fringe.

You have a reputation for writing strong female characters but there are elements of simplification and containment about the phrase “strong female characters” that don’t do justice to Cady, Frankie, Gretchen, Sayde, or Roo; for example, in describing Frankie you’ve said that while there’s “much to admire in her…I also think she’s a problematic person, not a role model so much as a character whose internal and external conflicts remain unresolved.”  Could you talk about the difference between “strong female characters” and complicated, compelling characters, and about how young women shouldn’t “be required to be likable, in fiction or in real life”?

All my central characters are struggling with outside forces that oppress or limit them in some way. That is very much true of Demi in Dramarama and Gat in We Were Liars and Titus in Fly on the Wall  — all boys.  I write girls more often because I was a girl.   I write about feminist issues because equality of all kinds is important to me, a driving force behind my fiction. As for being likable: lots of people don’t like me. I’m not that nice. But lots of people wouldn’t like me even if I tried all day every day to do nothing but get them to like me.  So — WHATEVER.   Like Cadence in We Were Liars, I do not suffer fools. I try to be a good storyteller, a humanitarian, a thoughtful human, a good mother, and responsible to my commitments, because those things matter to me more than other people’s opinions. So you see that attitude in my fiction,  too.

You actually explore all kinds of social issues in unique ways, ranging from bullying in The Boyfriend List to the privilege enjoyed by the moneyed Sinclairs in We Were Liars to the LGBT themes in Dramarama and Fly on the Wall.  I was going to ask you to talk about this, but then I came across your answer to the following question: what advice would you give yourself if you could go back in time to the beginning of your writing career?  You said, “I would ask, What are you angry about? And tell myself to write about that.”  Maybe those two topics—social issues and personal advice—overlap, and maybe they don’t; either way I’d love for you to elaborate.  What makes you angry?

I am angry about both rational and irrational things, large and small. Rational: social injustice, child abuse, rude behavior, passive aggression, white-washed book jackets.  Irrational: winters are long, cake is fattening, things like that.  I think what I meant in the quotes you cite is that in writing fiction I look for some driving and powerful emotion –  not a stagnant malaise or mild ambition.  Then, very often, I play that emotion for comedy.

Just Can’t Get Enough

Question from Marcus Sedgwick: It’s (almost) impossible for a writer to get asked a question that they haven’t been asked before, even when the person doing the asking is, himself, a writer. So forgive me if you’ve been asked this a million times before. I’ve been thinking a lot about first and last sentences. Many authors tell me they go back and change the openings of their books endlessly until they’re happy, but my first lines never change. Ever. I like to make sure I get the tone of the book right from the outset. My last lines sometimes change, but first ones, never. What do you think about that process and how do you work these things?

I am impressed by your writing process, Mr. Sedgwick.  I am a tinkerer and start my books in a muddle and often begin writing somewhere near the middle or even the end.   A lot of rearranging goes on, and then when I have the story in place, I go through  and work on the first and last lines of chapters and subsections.  Very often this means cutting, or bringing a line in from a different part of a scene to allow it to shine at the start or the end.

Emily has contributed a question for the next author in the series, Stephanie Kuehn.  Watch for an interview with her coming soon!

E. Lockhart is the author of We Were LiarsFly on the Wall, Dramarama, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks and the Ruby Oliver quartet: The Boyfriend List, The Boy Book, The Treasure Map of Boys, and Real Live Boyfriends. How to Be Bad was co-written with Lauren Myracle and Sarah Mlynowski. Disreputable History was a Printz Award honor book, a finalist for the National Book Award, and recipient of the Cybils Award for best young adult novel. We Were Liars is a New York Times bestseller. Lockhart has a doctorate in English literature from Columbia University and currently teach creative writing at Hamline University’s low-residency MFA program in Writing for Children. You can find E. Lockhart at her website and blog, on Pinterest and Tumblr, or follow her on Twitter.

–Julie Bartel, currently reading The Glass Sentence by S. E. Grove

Did You Love Lost? Try These Books!

Wed, 06/25/2014 - 07:00

photo by flickr user brewbooks

Where I live, the temperatures and humidity are climbing these days, leaving me feeling a bit bedraggled and wilted. Weather like this prompts a strong nostalgia in me for one of my favorite TV shows, Lost, both because I feel as humidity-drenched as they all look on the island, and because the heat saps my energy, so I need a book with a hook strong enough to generate its own page-turning momentum, the way Lost expertly hooked me with truly bizarre discoveries, goosebump-causing unexplained phenomena, and never-quite-enough tidbits of the characters’ lives before the crash.

While I can never go back to the jaw-dropping, melodramatic delights of viewing Lost for the very first time, I can, and do, regularly seek out reading materials that will deliver that same tantalizing mix of survival, conspiracy, flashback storytelling with globetrotting locales, a diverse and varied cast of secret-keeping characters, and developments so strange I actually say, “What?!” out loud. The books in the following list all offered one or many of those factors.

MIND MGMT Vol. 1: The Manager by Matt Kindt – Perhaps an obvious pick, given that Lost producer Damon Lindelof loved this so much he wrote the foreword, and that Kindt has given Lost a very direct nod by numbering the “lost” flight in his story 815. It’s supposed to appeal to Lost fans. But just because a thing is supposed to appeal doesn’t always mean it hits its mark. Imagine my delight then, to be promised by Lindelof that I was in for just the kind of wild ride Lost used to deliver so reliably, and then to have the book in my hand actually take me on just such a ride. This is one of those plots that keeps unfolding to reveal new layers, introducing new characters, and feeding you information from the past and the present without ever explaining anything fully (so just resign yourself to a degree of uncertainty about everything).  MIND MGMT Vol. 1 was one of 2014’s Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens, and the graphic format here really served the fragmented storytelling; what was going on in the frames could be saying one thing, and then the frame itself could say something else entirely, and the reader could follow the action through many places and time periods very quickly with a few key visual cues. The best part, for me, of discovering this bizarre (and, fair warning, violent) world; it’s an ongoing series. 

Lexicon by Max Barry – A 2014 Alex Award winner, this is not one to start if you have to be anywhere anytime soon. From page one, high-voltage action sequences interspersed with  backstory-building flashbacks to firmly establish a network of characters all connected by some far-reaching organization which may or may not be benign (and isn’t that the best kind of far-reaching organization, really?). My favorite Lost-like element here were the very conflicted, tender, human moments anchoring and connecting the breathlessly-paced action (again, heads up; parts of this were pretty violent). My other favorite Lost-like element? Not being sure who the real villain(s) were. Plus, bonus points for the insane-but-I’ll-go-with-it premise: mind control.

Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick – Do they count as narrative flashbacks if the story is essentially being told backwards? Probably not, but this year’s Michael L. Printz Award winner is a veritable head trip of recurring themes, symbols, gestures, phrases, and characters, and the whole thing takes place on a mysterious island where time might not be behaving exactly like it’s supposed to, and communication with the rest of the world is forgotten, or possibly forbidden. So many Lost-like factors, and yet this book creates an atmosphere entirely its own. The language is precise and evocative, and no one seems entirely trustworthy, or entirely bad.


Rust series by Royden Lepp – This graphic novel series unfolds at a less breakneck pace than many of the other titles listed here, but it’s a deliberate, slow-burning kind of parade of discovery for the reader (and, they’re graphic novels, so “less breakneck” is still pretty fast). Everything is laid out in gorgeous sepia inks which make the sci-fi elements feel rooted in real history, presented as they are in the shades of old photographs. The Rust series is focused on a relatively small cast of characters, but they are richly drawn with nuanced emotional details and complex relationships. A 2014’s Top Ten Graphic Novels for Teens (volume 2, Secrets of the Cell), many of the best moments here echo some of my favorite Lost scenes because they prompted the response in my head, “but that’s impossible.”


Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloane – If only the island on Lost had had a well-stocked bookstore, maybe they all could have just settled in to castaway living a little easier? Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is pretty different from Lost, tone-wise; it’s told in the first person, so we only get one character’s perspective, it’s not particularly violent (refreshing!), and the mystery is constantly unfolding ahead of us, so no flashbacks. But! This allows the plot to push forward steadily, gaining momentum with every new development, and at every turn the scope broadens even as the threads of the mystery become more intricately woven. This won an Alex Award in 2013.




Whether you’re a die-hard Lost fan or you just enjoy unexplained occurrences and vaguely untrustworthy characters peppering your reading, I hope you find something from this list to help you forget the heat for a few hours; let me know in the comments which other titles give you that delicious, wide-eyed, Lost-like feeling!

-Carly Pansulla, currently reading This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

Jukebooks: Road Rash by Mark Huntley Parsons

Wed, 06/25/2014 - 07:00

Dumped by his band, drummer Zach faces a long summer working at Johnson’s Yard Supply. The rhythm picks up again when Zach is offered a place with the band Bad Habit just as they start on a tour. It’s not quite the ride Zach expects. (Think spandex and cover tunes.) But along the way, Zach learns how to work as a team, how to speak his mind, and how to cherish a very special girl.

When Zach first goes to hear Bad Habit play, he’s blown away by “…their own twisted update…” of “Are You Gonna Go My Way,” first recorded by Lenny Kravitz in 1993. Kravitz is himself a one-man musical magician. Kravitz produced and co-wrote “Are You Gonna Go My Way,” singing both lead and back-up vocals. He could play guitar, percussion, and keyboards. But he’s also well-known for his extravagant music videos and stage performances. The video below won Kravitz the 1993 MTV Music Video Award for Male Vocalist.

-Diane Colson, currently reading Everything Breaks by Vicki Grove.

Diverse YA Titles to Look for at ALA Annual

Tue, 06/24/2014 - 07:00

As a follow-up to Hannah Gómez’s post #DiversityatALA about the current movement to be vocal about the need for more diversity in YA literature (#weneeddiversebooks), and Kelly Dickinson’s post featuring LGBTQ titles, I’m here to list some upcoming YA books that contain non-white, non-heterosexual, non-cisgendered or differently-abled characters that you should be on the lookout for. If you are attending the ALA Annual Conference this weekend in Vegas, ask the publishers about ARCs for many of these. Not all of them will be available as ARCs because some aren’t being published until 2015, but publishers’ reps should still be able give you the scoop on them.

To start, I’m including a few recent notable books that you probably know about and a few that aren’t as obvious because the reviews might not have mentioned their diverse content, or you can’t tell from their jacket flaps.

Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark (2014 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults) is a novel about a transgendered boy while a strong pick for a nonfiction book about transgendered teens is Susan Kuklin’s Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out.

I wasn’t aware that  the main character Chevron “Chevie” is descended from the Shawnee Native American tribe in Eoin Colfer’s Warp: Book 1 the Reluctant Assassin until I started reading it. The second book in the series, Hangman’s Revolution is coming out today. Park in Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (2014 Printz Honor book) is half-Korean.

In Stick by Andrew Smith the main character “Stick” is differently-abled because he was born without an ear & his older brother is gay. Chasing Shadows by Swati Avashi has a main character of Indian descent and there’s a lot about Hindu mythology in the book.

Padma Venkatraman’s A Time to Dance is about a classical Indian dance prodigy whose life seems to be over after she becomes a below-the knee amputee.

Erin Bow’s Sorrow’s Knot is a fantasy flavored by Native American cultures and Dark Metropolis by Jaclyn Dolamore features a lesbian character.

Now that you’re up to speed on recently-published diverse titles, here are some upcoming books with diverse content to keep an eye out for at ALA Annual and other conferences:

  • Girl From the Well by Rin Chupeco (Sourcebooks, August  2014) is a ghost story about Okiko, whose spirit has wandered the world for centuries delivering punishment to monsters who hurt children,  but when she meets teenaged Tark, she tries to free him from the demon that invaded him.
  •  Blind by Rachel DeWoskin (Penguin, August 2014) A 15-year-old teen girl loses her eyesight the summer before high school after a firecracker misfires into a crowd.
  •  Positive: a Memoir by Paige Rawl (HarperCollins, August 2014) (NF). Memoir of Paige Rawl, HIV positive since birth, who was bullied in school once she disclosed her HIV-positive status and from that moment forward, every day was like walking through a minefield. 
  •  Bombay Blues by Tanuja Desai Hidier (Scholastic, August 2014, sequel to Born Confused, 2002). Dimple Lala thinks she’s heading to Bombay for a family wedding — but really she is plunging into the unexpected, the unmapped, and the uncontrollable.
  •  Taken by David Massey (Chicken House, an imprint of Scholastic, August 2014). A crew of extreme athletes, including four that are teen military veterans disabled in combat, are sailing around the world on a grueling charity challenge until they are taken hostage and their trip turns into a struggle for survival in the heart of the African jungle.
  •  Evidence of Things Not Seen by Lindsey Lane (Farrar Straus Giroux, September 2014) is about a teen with Asperger’s  Syndrome who goes missing and everyone has a theory about what happened to him.
  •  Some Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen by Arin Andrews (Simon & Schuster, September 2014) (NF). Memoir by seventeen-year-old Arin Andrews who shares all the hilarious, painful, and poignant details of undergoing gender reassignment as a high school student.
  •  The Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley (Harlequin Teen, September 2014). In 1959 Virginia, the lives of two girls on opposite sides of the battle for civil rights will be changed forever.
  •  Tabula Rasa by Kristen Lippert-Martin (Egmont USA, September 2014). SF thriller about sixteen -year-old half-Latino teenager who is being held in a remote facility being systematically operated on to erase her memories.
  •  In Real Life by Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang (First Second, October  2014) is a graphic novel about a girl who loves an online role playing game who befriends   a poor Chinese kid whose avatar in the game illegally collects valuable objects and then sells them to players from developed countries with money to burn.
  •  Laughing at My Nightmare by Shane Burcaw (Roaring Brook Press, October  2014) (NF) is his memoir that describes the challenges he faces as a twenty-one-year-old with spinal muscular atrophy.
  •  Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater (Scholastic, October 2014 – third in The Raven Boys series) Without spoiling the previous books, one of the main characters is gay or questioning his sexuality.
  •  Exquisite Captive by Heather Demetrios (Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins, October 2014). Middle Eastern inspired fantasy about eighteen-year-old jinni  who is pitted against two magnetic adversaries, both of whom want her—and need her—to make their wishes come true.
  •  How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon (Henry Holt, October 2014). A multiple-viewpoint novel about how a community responds to the tragic death of a boy named Tariq who lived among them. (fictionalized Trayvon Martin case)
  • The Walled City by Ryan Graudin (Little Brown, November 2014). Jin, Mei Yee, and Dai all live in the Walled City, a lawless labyrinth run by crime lords and overrun by street gangs.
  • Diamond Boy by Michael Williams (Little, Brown, December 2014). Set against the backdrop of President Robert Mugabe’s brutal regime in Zimbabwe, this is the story of young man who succumbs to greed but finds his way out through a transformative journey to South Africa in search of his missing sister, in search of freedom, and in search of himself.
  • Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go by Laura Rose Wagner (Amulet, January 2015). Two teenaged Haitian cousins have to fend for themselves after an earthquake strikes in Haiti in 2010.
  • Black Dove White Raven by Elizabeth Wein (Disney-Hyperion, February 2015). In 1930s America, a white woman raising a black adoptive son alongside a white daughter is not accepted so they move to Ethiopia where their peaceful existence is shattered by the threat of war with Italy.

Believe it or not, there are more, but I don’t have space to cover all of them all in one post– or I’ve missed some, so please comment with any suggestions to add to this list!

-Sharon Rawlins, currently reading Vicious by V. E. Schwab

Pulp Fiction With a Side of Fries: The New American Pastime, and How to Avoid its Fiery Wrath

Mon, 06/23/2014 - 07:00

Today’s post is written by Fredrich Y., a high schooler, writer, and avid reader in Westerville, OH. Thank you, Fredrich, for sharing your thoughts with us! -Becky O’Neil, currently reading We Were Liars, by E. Lockhart

In recent years it seems as if the general Western public has gotten the dangerous idea into their heads that anybody can write a book. Crazy, I know, right? This theory, albeit a major confidence booster, can be largely blamed for the large influx of undeniably, gut-wrenchingly awful literature.

Yes, I know what you’re thinking, reader: “Why of course anybody can write a book!” And I know that. However, not anybody can write a good book. Anybody can pick up a pen and scribble down a few phrases here and there, but it takes a certain person to convince somebody to pay attention to the scribbles enough to care. Everybody, at some point in time, has flipped open to the first page of a book and instead of being filled with the sense of joy and elation that comes with great literature, has been afflicted with an irresistible urge to hurl it violently against a wall.

That isn’t to say that all books written by underqualified authors are trash – quite the opposite. This theory has contributed to the publication of amazing works such as the Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling, and Looking for Alaska, by John Green (a 2006 Printz Award winner), that have transformed an entire generation. However, every amazing novel published has its fair share of not-so-amazing counterparts filled with borderline fanfiction and sappy romance plots. (Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I am calling your beloved Twilight, Chosen, and Nicholas Sparks novels pulp fiction.)

This is why I present to you:


The Zombie Hunter Average Human’s Guide to Surviving Pulp Fiction

Detecting Pulp Fiction:

1. The Cover

Does the book cover look like something you want to barf at? Odds are, if it does, then the book will make you want to barf too. Yes, I am advising you to  judge books by their cover. The cover can tell you more about the book than any excerpt or summary imaginable. Various warning signs include: holding hands, pretty faces, and almost naked teenagers. (Exceptions include the truly amazing Winger, by Andrew Smith, and Golden Boy, by Tara Sullivan) 

2. The Title

Chances are you are already pretty attuned to this one, but it’s safe to remind you that if the book has the words love, romance, or moist in the title, it’s probably a no-go. Other warning signs are those awful one-word titles that are more commonly used as everyday nouns or verbs. Basically, if you could cut at least twenty copies of the title out of the front page of your newspaper, then you’ll probably want to pass on that one.

3. Reviews

Turn the book over to the back and look at the reviews. (If there aren’t any, then that probably speaks for itself.) Do you recognize the names of the reviewers as authors of pulp fiction themselves? Does their review sound so cheesy that you need a bottle of wine to get through it? If the Daily Mail is even mentioned, you might need to disinfect your hands before doing anything else.

4. The Format of the Book

Is the book written in standard chapter – paragraph format, or is it a collection of letters? Are there brief poetic interludes filled with sappy metaphors? Also consider the font. Is it written in nice, respectable Cambria or Georgia, or is it one of those annoying loopy, cursive fonts? Is it bigger than 14 point, or even if not, does it look like a large-print special edition?

5. The Actual Book

If you’ve reached this step, you’re almost in the clear. Turn to a random page of the books and count how many times the word “friend,” either alone or part of another word, is included. If it’s more than you could think humanly possible, don’t bother looking any further. Now, go to the first page and read it. Have the main character’s parents been killed? Have they gone through some horribly traumatic event? Are they the spawn of a very important person or recognisable wherever they go? If so, too bad. If not, then congratulations, you have just found a pulp-free book to cherish into old age. You have conquered the failing writing education programs of America.

Don’t Panic:

Finally, we must address the issue of what to do if you find yourself in possession of a pulp fiction novel. Do not panic. Do not scream. As much as you may want to, it is ill-advised to throw your book across the room in a blind rage whilst running to go sanitise your hands. What you must do instead is politely replace the book on the shelf patiently, walk away calmly and move on with your life. (Therapy sessions may be necessary to achieve the third point.) Remember: You will probably come across a pulp fiction novel at some point in your life. It’s better to be prepared than try and shelter yourself.

Not all young adult books are pulp fiction. Remember, the world hasn’t been consumed by a compilation of all the fiery horror and cannonballs that make up tumblr and yet. The opposite of these tips are also true; funny covers and witty titles tend to make for interesting reads. (The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart and Going Bovine, by Libba Bray (a 2010 Printz Award winner), can often restore my faith in modern literature.) Great reads are out there; it’s up to you to find them.


You’ve made it. You have now successfully completed your preparation for the horror that is pulp fiction. Now it’s your turn to make a change. Unfortunately, in good faith I cannot recommend the violent destruction or removal of pulp fiction already existing, but the least you can do is not put any more into circulation. Write something decent. Write something and actually care about not killing your readers with an overload of cliches and metaphors. Be a young adult writer, sure (because America definitely needs more of those), but (and we mean this as kindly as possible) don’t suck at it. The war against awful literature is just beginning and we need you on our side.

- Fredrich Yeager, currently reading Beauty Queens, by Libba Bray

The Monday Poll: Your Most-Anticipated Summer Sequel

Mon, 06/23/2014 - 00:20

photo by flickr user mrsdkrebs

Good morning, Hub readers!

Last week, we asked you to choose a fantasy setting from YA lit for your summer vacation. Your top pick was Discworld from the Discworld books by Terry Pratchett, with 29% of the vote, followed by a tie: 19% of you would pick Lumatere from Melina Marchetta’s Lumatere Chronicles, while the same percentage would choose Bayern from Shannon Hale’s The Goose Girl and other books of Bayern. We also received some write-in votes for Hogwarts and Middle Earth– good choices indeed. You can see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive. Thanks to all of you who voted!

This week, we want to know what YA lit sequel you’re most looking forward to reading this summer! There are a lot of great titles to choose from, and we’re only sharing a handful here. Cast your vote from the choices below, or add your suggestions in the comments!

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

2014 Hub Reading Challenge Check-in #20

Sun, 06/22/2014 - 07:00

This is it, the final check-in of the 2014 Hub Reading Challenge!  Anything from the list of eligible titles that you read or listen to up until 11:59pm EDT tonight, June 22, counts. So fill out the form below and let us know that you’ve finished the challenge before 11:59pm EDT!

After the deadline passes we’ll do a drawing to determine our grand prize winner, who will receive a YALSA tote bag full of 2013 and 2014 YA lit! (If the winner is a teacher or librarian or something similar, we’ll also include a few professional development titles.)  Everyone who completed the challenge will receive an elite digital badge of achievement, as well as an invitation to submit a reader response to a book they read for the challenge that will be published on The Hub.  Check out some of the amazing Reader Responses from last year if you’re curious.

We’re also interested in knowing what you thought of the 2014 challenge! What worked for you?  What didn’t?  Did you participate on social media?  Why or why not?  Leave us a comment and let us know what you enjoyed most about participating, what you’d like us to change for the next reading challenge, or anything else you want to share.  You can also email us if you’d like to respond privately.

One last time, then, don’t forget to check out social media using the #hubchallenge hashtag and jump into the discussion over at the Goodreads 2014 Hub Challenge group if you haven’t already.

If you’ve completed the challenge by reading or listening to 25 titles from the list of eligible books, be sure to fill out the form below by 11:59pm EDT tonight, Sunday, June 22.  Please be sure to use an email you check frequently so we can send you your Challenge Finisher badge, get in touch to coordinate your reader’s response, and, perhaps best of all, notify you if you win the grand prize drawing!  Thanks for participating in the 2014 Hub Reading Challenge!  I can’t wait till next year!

Browsable Nonfiction for Teens

Fri, 06/20/2014 - 07:00

With the Common Core and it’s emphasis on nonfiction throughout all subjects being adopted across much of the country, nonfiction seems to be on everyone’s mind. In a lot of ways, I think it’s a great opportunity for libraries and schools to more robustly and interestingly use nonfiction. I’ve recently begun to really enjoy nonfiction – especially history, exploration, and stories of true survival – and I’m glad that we are making strides to promote nonfiction to teens.

Just a handful of titles the teens at my library have looked at recently.

This is not really the type of nonfiction I’m going to talk about today. The books I’m talking about may not check out the most often from the library, or they may not be the ones you’d necessarily pick up in the subject sections of your favorite bookstore. They may also be unlikely to win a Sibert medal. But this doesn’t mean that they aren’t great books, it just means that they are a different kind of book.

I’m talking about browsable, high-interest nonfiction. These are the type of books that you can page through for a few minutes, show a funny picture to your friends, and then go on  with your day. You may check it out, or you may just look at it when you go to the library.

At my library, some nonfiction subjects that seem to get used a lot – that aren’t Common Core material – are Minecraft books (these definitely get checked out), music, cosplay, fandom related books like Doctor Who or Hunger Games materials, and crafts. Some teens also like to look through the books about music and dating. Here are some titles used by teens recently and I think are definitely work a look.

Rookie Yearbook One and TwoThese editions collect some of the content from Tavi Gevinson’s brilliant rookie website. Focused on girls, indie, DIY, and alternative cultures there are some great essays, photoshoots, and songs lists in here. Plus, some of the books have goodies like stickers or tear out Tarot cards!

1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die : The title says it all really, but this books is really a primer of popular music history from the 1950s on. Definitely an interesting page turner and might help a teen find a new band or type of music!

Craft-a-DayThis is just a good example of a nice teen craft book that isn’t too hard or complicated. The author does a series of similar projects all with different themes for each week of the year. There is a whale week, a pumpkin week, fox week, and you learn to make little stuffed animals, cake topper, cards, and more.

The Doctor Who Character Encyclopedia and other Doctor Who books are popular at my library. We are doing a fandom-themed summer reading program and I know these will get used a lot. It’s fun to look through and be reminded of all of your favorite episodes and characters!

Finally, books about cosplay are always good for a browse. I like 1000 Incredible Costume & Cosplay Ideas and the Cosplay Fever books. Both show a wide range cosplayers from anime, manga, movies, books, video games, and even original creations. I’ve overheard teens playing a “guess which show/book/movie this cosplay is from” game and it’s great to see them interacting that way with the materials.

So, what you do you think? What are some of your favorite nonfiction books for browse through?

-Anna Tschetter, currently reading All the Truth that’s in Me by Julie Berry

Audiobooks for Reluctant Listeners

Fri, 06/20/2014 - 07:00

By RCA Records (Billboard, page 29, 18 November 1972) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

June is Audiobook Month!  Many of us have fond memories of being read to as a child, but did you know that you can still be read to?  That is the value of audiobooks! The story comes alive and, with the right narrator, you can hear a story much more differently than you would reading it.  Accents are perfected, exclamations are understood, and even words or names you may not know or have never heard before make sense to you.  This is my second year evaluating audiobooks for YALSA’s Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults committee.  As chair of this year’s committee, I am so excited for all the great audiobook-related things happening this month.  Articles are being written about the importance and resurgence of audiobooks, you can get in “Sync” this summer and download free audios, and the audiobook circulation at my Library sees a nice increase starting in June with many people going on road trips and vacations.

To give you an idea of what makes an audiobook a good listen, here are some of the criteria that gets an audiobook on the Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults selection list:

  • The narration has to expand or compliment the original text.  In other words, when you listen to a narrator tell the story, it comes alive and allows the you to experience the text in a different way.
  • Character voice variation is key!  We must have a sense of who the character is by the different qualities in the voices that the narrator uses.  For example, it is a lot more enjoyable when you are listening to a narrated conversation and can tell which character is talking without the text cues letting you know.  Accents, exclamations, and sound effects also are considered.  If done well, they really make an audiobook amazing!
  • There is also the importance of a match between the text and the narrator.  You know when it is right; your ear picks it up.  The narrator embodies the main character and sometimes even all the characters in the books.
  • The technical production on an audiobook is also a criteria for the Amazing Audiobooks list.  We want to make sure the editing is done well, the sound quality is even, and that there are no issues with extra sounds or mike pickups. Additionally, we do consider the music that you hear at the beginning, end, or in between the tracks–does it match the story?  Is it effective in heightening the story? If it is, then it just adds more quality to the production.

So, where should you start if you have never listened to an audiobook before?  Well, some great awards and lists are put out every year: the Odyssey Award, the Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults annual list, and the Audies are a few places to start.  Below I have compiled some of my favorites, that I think will be a great first listen for all of you who are new to audiobooks and want to give them a try.

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green, read by Jeff Woodman.  Brilliance Audio: 7 hours. (2008 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)

Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary “Jacky” Faber, Ship’s Boy by L.A. Meyer, narrated by Katherine Kellgren. Listen and Live Audio: 8 hours. (2008 Odyssey Honor, 2008 Amazing Audiobooks for Yound Adults)

Katherine Kellgren has narrated the series from the start.  Checkout this clip of her narrating one of the latest books in the series:

Crap Kingdom by D.C. Pierson, read by the author. Blackstone Audio: 7 hours and 41 minutes. (2014 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults Top Ten)

Dairy Queen by Catherine Murdock, read by Natalie Moore. Listening Library: 6 hours and 9 minutes. (2007 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)

Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin, read by Cassandra Morris. Listening Library: 7 hours and 3 minutes. (2007 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)

Elsewhere sample

Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger, read by Moira Quirk. Hachette Audio: 8 hours and 56 minutes. (2014 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)

Moira Quirk narrates this series.  Check out the sample from the second book, Curtsies & Conspiracies, to hear what a wonderful match she is for this steampunk series.

Fat Kid Rules the World by K.L. Going, read by Matthew Lillard. Listening Library: 5 hours and 43 minutes. (2004 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)

Fat Kid Rules the World sample

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, read by the author. Recorded Books: 7 hours and 45 minutes. (2009 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)

If I Stay by Gayle Forman, read by Kirsten Potter. Listening Library: 4 hours and 48 minutes. (2010 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)

Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer, read by Emily Bauer. Listening Library: 9 hours. (2008 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)

Life As We Knew It sample

Monster by Walter Dean Myers, read by full cast. Listening Library: 2 hours and 34 minutes. (2001 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)

Monster sample

Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama, narrated by Katherine Kellgren. Macmillan Audio: 8 hours. (2013 Odyssey Honor, 2013 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, narrated by Steve West and Fiona Hardingham. Scholastic Audiobooks: 10 hours and 12 minutes. (2012 Odyssey Honor, 2012 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)

Scowler by Daniel Kraus, narrated by Kirby Heyborne. Listening Library: 11 hours and 15 minutes. (2014 Odyssey Winner, 2014 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)

Son of the Mob by Gordon Korman, read by Max Casella.  Listening Library: 4 hours and 36 minutes.  (2003 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)

Son of the Mob sample

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, read by Joel Johnstone and Debra Wiseman. Listening Library: 6 hours and 15 minutes.  (2008 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)

White Cat by Holly Black, read by Jesse Eisenberg. Listening Library: 6 hours and 41 minutes. (2011 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)

White Cat sample

What are some of your favorite listens?

–Colleen Seisser, currently reading X-Men: the Dark Phoenix Saga

Tweets of the Week: June 20th

Fri, 06/20/2014 - 07:00

Feel like you’ll miss some big important #yalit news if you’re not checking Twitter constantly? I hear ya. That’s why we do a round-up each week of all the best tweets. 


Twitter is still talking about that one Slate article…

It’s Audiobook Month!



Giveaways (and books deals!)

- Molly Wetta, currently listening to The Lost Sun by Tess Gratton

Is This Just Fantasy?: LGBTQ+ Speculative Fiction

Thu, 06/19/2014 - 07:00

As this recurring feature on The Hub clearly indicates, I love fantasy fiction.  But even a fan like myself must acknowledge that the genre has limitations, especially in terms of diversity.  Speculative fiction has remained a fairly white, cis-gendered, & straight world for a long time.  The fact that there seem to be more dragons and robots than LGBTQ+ characters in fantasy & sci-fi novels is shameful and disheartening, especially to the genres’ LGBTQ+ fans.  So in celebration of LGBT Pride Month, I set out to overview the current status of LGBTQ+ representation in young adult fantasy and science fiction.

High Fantasy

For readers interested in issues of diversity & representation in speculative fiction, Malinda Lo is one of the most exciting authors and insightful bloggers out there.  Her work is also the perfect introduction to high fantasy featuring LGBTQ+ characters.  For readers favoring fairy tale retellings, Malinda Lo’s Ash (2010 Morris Award Finalist, 2014 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults) is an ideal romantic read. In this delicate Cinderella story, an orphaned young woman seeks escape from pain in the promises of a dark fairy but begins to question her choice when she falls in love with the king’s huntress.  Meanwhile, readers looking for quest narratives featuring complex heroines should pick up Lo’s Huntress (2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2012 Rainbow List, 2012 Amelia Bloomer List), which follows the journey of two very different young women as they attempt to restore balance to the world–and understand their intense connection. 

High fantasy readers might also investigate Laura Lam’s Pantomime (2014 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, 2014 Rainbow List) and its sequel, Shadow Play.  Set in a Victorian-inspired world filled with mysterious magical technology left behind by a past civilization, Pantomime holds the distinction of being one of the only young adult novels–fantasy or otherwise–with an intersex protagonist.

Additionally, Tamora Pierce has included LGBTQ+ characters in her novels.  Okha, a trans woman, is a prominent supporting character in Bloodhound while Daja, one of the four protagonists in her Emelan series, is a lesbian.  Kristin Cashore‘s novels Graceling (2009 Best Books for Young Adults), Fire (2010 Best Books for Young Adults), and Bitterblue (2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults2013 Rainbow List) also feature LGBTQ characters.  Conversation surrounding her novels inspired Malinda Lo’s fantastic discussion on heteronormativity, same-sex romances, and world-building in fantasy.

Urban & Paranormal Fantasy

Readers who prefer fantasy focused on fae worlds lurking beneath city sidewalks or werewolves and vampires living in modern America need not fret–urban or paranormal fantasy titles featuring LGBTQ+ characters also exist!  Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments and Infernal Devices series feature gay and bisexual characters, including the fan favorite Magnus Bane who now has his own spinoff series of short fiction.  Holly Black includes LGBTQ+ characters in her Modern Faerie series while her vampire thriller The Coldest Girl In Coldtown (2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults) features a trans woman as a prominent supporting character.  In Scott Tracey’s Witch Eyes trilogy, Braden sets out to explore his past and stumbles into an ancient magical freud–and a forbidden romance with the enigmatic Trey. 

For those seeking some supernatural mystery, The Shattering by Karen Healey incorporates paranormal/horror tropes, Maori tradition & mythology, and diverse characters, including a young lesbian protagonist.   Additionally, hannah moskowitz’s gritty fable Teeth (2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults) explores family, love, sexuality, loyalty, and humanity through a brutal coming of age tale set on a island home to both magically healing fish and a half-human, half-fish boy.

Superhero Fiction

The complicated history of LGBTQ+ characters in superhero stories deserves its own dedicated article but as a generally inexperienced reader of this subgenre, I’ll simply highlight a couple of titles.  Hero by Perry Moore (2008 Best Books for Young Adults, 2008 Rainbow List2012 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults) is a classic superhero coming of age novel with a protagonist struggling to hide both his emerging superhero powers & his sexual orientation from his ex-superhero father.  Meanwhile, Kate Kane, the newest incarnation of Batwoman introduced by DC Comics in 2006, is an out lesbian whose adventures can be followed in relevant issues of the Batman universe comics as well as her solo series, Batwoman: Elegy (2011 Rainbow List, 2011 Great Graphic Novels for Teens) and Batwoman Volume 1: Hydrology (2013 Rainbow List).

Sci-Fi Adventures

As we enter the world of science fiction featuring LGBTQ+ characters, we must return to Malinda Lo.  Her Adaptation (2013 Rainbow List) and Inheritance duology are perfect  for fans of government conspiracies, extraterrestrial encounters, and heart-pounding thrillers.  However, these action-packed sci-fi adventures also explore sexuality, sexual orientation, and relationship dynamics, including polyamory.  Meanwhile, Andrew Smith’s Grasshopper Jungle pays homage to classic B-movie sci-fi as Austin Szerba attempts to navigate the apocalypse and his confused feelings & constant lust for both his girlfriend & best friend.

Dystopian Fiction

In her excellent post,”The Goverment Can’t Stop Our Heterosexual Love: YA Dystopia From A Gay Perspective,” Chelsea Condren reasonably asked why we haven’t seen more dystopian fiction featuring LGBTQ+ characters.  While the progress is small, I am happy to able to respond with a few titles.

Both Proxy by Alex London (2014 Rainbow List, 2014 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers, 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults) and The Culling by Steven dos Santos (2014 Rainbow List) are fast-paced dystopian adventures with young gay male protagonists.  The cyberpunk Coda by Emma Trevayne focuses on Anthem, who teams up his girlfriend, ex-boyfriend, and friends to fight the all-controlling Corp and protect his younger siblings.

Meanwhile, Love in the Time of Global Warming (2014 Rainbow List), Francesca Lia Block‘s retelling of Homer’s Odyssey in post-apocalyptic L.A.,  focuses on four LGBTQ+ teens including the bisexual Pen and her love interest Hex, a young trans man.  The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson (2014 Rainbow List, 2013 National Book Award nominee) imagines a matriarchal society in post-apocalyptic Brazil and investigates power, gender, sexuality, and art through the complex coming of age of June, her best friend Gil, and the charismatic Enki–with whom they’ve both fallen in love despite his fatal destiny as the sacrificial Summer King.  

Please share your favorite speculative fiction titles featuring LGBTQ+ characters!

-Kelly Dickinson, currently reading Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi and It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens by danah boyd.

Gotta Catch ‘Em All: YA Lit Events at ALA Annual

Thu, 06/19/2014 - 07:00

In just over a week, Las Vegas will be filled with librarians, library workers, publishers, and vendors for the American Library Association Annual Conference. There will be professional development sessions, committee meetings, award ceremonies, receptions, and author appearances galore– and there are plenty of YA literature related events you won’t want to miss. Here’s our round-up of what to mark on your schedule:

Friday, June 27th

Saturday, June 28th

Sunday, June 29th

Monday, June 30th

Additionally, while YALSA’s award committee meetings are closed, the selected list committee meetings are open to all conference attendees, so if you want to see how the titles on lists like Best Fiction for Young Adults, Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults, or Great Graphic Novels for Teens are chosen, sit in on a selected list meeting! You can find the details on these sessions in the conference scheduler.

If you’re not going to Las Vegas, watch The Hub for coverage of events during and after the conference. You can also keep up with conference news on the YALSAblog and on Twitter with the hashtags #yalsa, #alaac14, #bfya.

For those of you who are headed to Vegas next week, what are you looking forward to the most?

-Allison Tran, currently reading Pointe by Brandy Colbert