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Your Connection to Teen Reads
Updated: 2 hours 15 min ago

Genre Guide: Mysteries for Teens

Tue, 04/29/2014 - 07:00


Image by Wikimedia Commons user Alterego

The definition for teen mysteries seems to be slightly less strictly defined as in comparison to their adult counterparts.  First, there is usually “something” to solve.  Generally, it is a crime, but in some cases it can be a secret that is not necessarily illegal or punishable by law.  For example, why someone killed themselves or discovering that someone is cheating in a contest or academic endeavor.  Also, while adult mystery novels usually have detectives at work at solving mysteries, in teen novels it is often an average teen with an inquisitive nature–someone who is a true amateur.

Teen mysteries are similar to their adult counterparts, however, when it comes to the plot unfolding.  The clues are presented to the main character(s) and to the reader, and steps are taken as to get more information to discover the how, what, why, who, and sometimes even the where and when.  Ultimately, we are given the final reveal at the end of the novel.

Authors to Know


Mysteries for teens present a puzzle or secret that lead readers (and usually protagonists) to gather clues presented in the story to solve the puzzle or learn the secret by the end of the book.  Usually mysteries for teens involve a lot of action and are fast paced.  However, recently we have seen a trend of psychological mysteries written for teens that are slower paced with a plot that reveals the true nature of someone or something that happened.

Teen mystery novels can cross genres. The most common are contemporary realistic fiction, historical fiction, and supernatural fiction.  Suspense as a genre is closely aligned with mysteries and are at times one in the same.  In recent years, we have seen the rise of mysteries presented in a series where the protagonist is the same character throughout the series.  Finally, most mysteries for teens have an ending that is resolved and tied up neatly, even in the individual titles in a series.


The appeal for teens to read a mystery is often the same as for anyone who likes to read mysteries: to be challenged to solve the puzzle, crime, or hidden secret by the end of the novel and oftentimes the reader wants to solve it before the protagonist does.  Additionally, when it comes to reading the forensic genre of mysteries, teens will like learning new ways to look at clues and evidence and maybe even learn more about forensic sciences.  Finally, other appeal factors include the fast pace, the action and adventure, the admirable main characters, and the high emotions and suspense of the story.


Teens of any age will read mysteries.  These stories also generally have equal appeal to male and female readers.


Some recent trends for teen mystery novels include the use of forensic science and other sciences involved to either commit the crime or solve the mystery.  Additionally, some authors have been pushing the limits of psychological horror in their novels compared to what we have previously seen published for teen readers.  Mystery series that are built around a single protagonist are also becoming more common. Finally, in recent years, authors have included technology that is either recent or speculative as part of their mystery.


Reference Books

  • Mind-Bending Mysteries and Thrillers for Teens: A Programming and Readers’ Advisory Guide by Amy J. Alessio (American Library Association, 2014).
  • The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Mystery, Second Edition byJohn Charles, Candace Clark, Joanne Hamilton-Selway, and Joanna Morrison (American Library Association, 2012).


Most teen publishers publish mysteries for teens.  Notably, Soho Teen, a new imprint of Soho Press, is currently publishing books for teens with a focus on mysteries and thrillers.


The Edgar Awards, includes a young adult award.

The Agatha Awards also has a young adult award.

The Thriller Awards, presented by the International Thriller Writers, has a young adult award.

Recommended Titles

As with many genre lists, this list could go on and on, so feel free to comment with some of your favorite mystery novels!

- Colleen Seisser, currently reading The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

What Would They Read?: Buffy the Vampire Slayer continued

Mon, 04/28/2014 - 07:00

Last month, I had intention of selecting books for characters of fantastic TV show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Surprisingly, I got lost in a Buffy tornado and did not get a chance to discuss the reading habits of anyone else from the show.  Let’s see how many characters I get through this month.

Xander Harris – Xander is not much of a reader, as we learn in the show.  However, there are a few references to his love of comics.  It would be easy to give Xander a few superhero comics and he would be satisfied.  That said, I would stay away from any books featuring Daredevil, seeing what happened to Xander in the final season.  I would like to expose Xander to a different kind of book- show him what else is out there. 

I thought one of the interesting ways to find a book for Xander would be to look at some of his past crushes, hobbies, etc.  The first book that comes to mind is probably one of the most bizarre books concepts that I’ve run across this year, but is still completely a Xander pick.  Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith is the story of two boys who inadvertently bring about six-foot tall praying mantises that may eventually destroy the world.  This just seems like a book match made in heaven for Xander.  Remember when he developed a crush on his entomology  teacher who transformed into a giant praying mantis?  What does a guy living on the Hellmouth consider the ultimate horror story?  What fuels his nightmares?  Vampires and demons are nothing for someone like Xander, but give him giant insects and he’ll be squirming.

Xander longs to  be a hero.  He had his chance during the first season when he became his Halloween costume and became a soldier.  Throughout the show, we see Xander recall his military knowledge and assist in situations.  A second choice for Xander’s to-read pile would be Divided We Fall by Trent Reedy.  In this book, Danny joins the National Guard in order to help protect his state and country.  But when the State Government and the Federal Government decide to turn on each other and a second Civil War threatens America, Danny has to determine what side is the right side. 

Willow Rosenberg – Obviously, Willow is a reader- although it doesn’t seem like she strays from ancient texts featuring complex spells and the history of Slimy Demon A. So, Willow is definitely in need of some fun reads.  I would assume that Willow would enjoy books featuring witches, even they didn’t exactly line up with the spells she conjures.  Two titles that I would recommend are Chime by Franny Billingsley (a 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults pick) and Jinx by Meg Cabot.  Chime is definitely more intense in the world generation and the conflict that Briony must endure.  In Chime, Briony must keep her magical abilities a secret lest she be put to death, but also must simultaneously try to use her powers to stop the inhabitants of the mysterious Swampsea from killing off her town.  The writing  voice in Jinx is a bit more whimsical.  Jean moves to New York City to live with her aunt, uncle, and cousin Tory and soon discovers that Tory is hiding a secret of the magical persuasion.

Rupert Giles - Similarly to Willow, it’s no surprise that Giles is a reader.  But, like Willow, Giles only reads stuff history texts and diaries from people who have been dead for several years.  There is a series that screams out Gilles’s name whenever I see it– the perfect series for Giles is the “Monstrumologist” series by Rick Yancey.  There are four books in this series including the 2010 Printz Honor book The Monstrumologist, The Curse of the Wendigo, The Isle of Blood, and The Final Descent.  This series follows the story of Will Henry and Dr. Wathrop, monstrumologists who study the history of monsters.  This series may be fiction, but it reads like the duos adventures could be true.  Giles will appreciate the technical jargon Dr. Wathrop’s uses and might learn something.  Let’s be real here, who’s to say that the beasties that Will and Dr. Wathrop encounter might not find their way to the Sunnydale Hellmouth.

Cordelia Chase – Shh…I know a secret about Cordelia.  She’s actually fairly intelligent!    As we learned in Season 3, Cordelia did very well on her placement tests and got into some impressive schools.  Although with the incarceration of her father due to tax fraud, we know that Cordelia did not attend college and instead moved to Los Angeles and the Angel spin-off.  In the back of the mind, I believe that Cordelia was a closet bookworm.  Sure, she kept up on the trends and spent an exorbitant amount of time chasing boys and hanging out at the Bronze, I think that some nights she went home and curled up with a book.   Now the tricky part…what does Cordelia read?  I would say that she would definitely polish off series like “Gossip Girl” by Cecily von Ziegesar which focus around high society characters.  Aside from the obvious suggestion of readalikes to the “Gossip Girl” series, I would give Cordelia Beauty Queens by Libba Bray (YALSA Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults 2014).  I think she would appreciate the heavy-handed satire Bray creates in her story of a plane full of beauty pageant contestants that crashes onto a deserted island.

Angel – Angel has been around for a super long time.  We have glimpsed a bit of his reading tastes throughout the show like when he gave Buffy a book of poetry as a gift.  Obviously, Angel is an old soul… when he has one, that is.  I would give him Being Henry David by Cal Armistead, a book about a boy in the midst of an identity crisis who uses his only possession, a copy of Walden, to uncover who he really is.  For a lighter reading option, I would also give Angel the graphic novel series, “My Boyfriend is a Monster”, the first volume found on the YALSA Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults 2012 list.  Here’s an opportunity for Angel to quit the brooding for a minute or two.

- Brandi Smits, currently reading Pirate Cinema by Cory Doctorow


The Monday Poll: YA Lit Characters as Adults

Mon, 04/28/2014 - 00:08

photo by flickr user Colby Stopa

Good morning, Hub readers!

Last week, we posed the question of which YA-lit-based summer movie is going to make you cry harder: If I Stay or The Fault in Our Stars. It’s generally agreed that they’re both going to pull at our heartstrings, but The Fault in Our Stars came out ahead with 79% 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!

This week, we want to know which YA lit character you’d want to follow into adulthood and read about how their life turns out. In the early 20th century, L.M. Montgomery took her iconic character Anne Shirley from girlhood to being a wife and mother. A few years ago, Ann Brashares provided a glimpse into the lives of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants characters as adults, and last fall, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor wrapped up the story of Alice, filling readers in on her life through age 60. Which other character from YA lit would you like to read about as an emerging (or fully-emerged) adult? Vote in the poll 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 #12

Sun, 04/27/2014 - 07:00

Not signed up for YALSA’s 2014 Hub Reading Challenge? Read the official rules and sign up on the original post. Remember, anything you’ve read since February 3 counts, and since the challenge doesn’t end until 11:59PM EST on June 22nd you’ve still got plenty of time.  Sign up now!

Week 13!  How are you all doing?  I’m closing in on 20 eligible books read and I’m feeling pretty good about my progress.  More than that, though, I’ve read some really great titles that I would have almost certainly missed.  Gene Yuen Lang’s Boxers & Saints was just as amazing as everyone said, and I loved Max Barry’s Lexicon, one of those books that wasn’t on my radar before the Alex Awards.  Thanks, Hub Reading Challenge!

I’m also really enjoying the check-in comments, as well as the conversations taking place over social media at the Goodreads 2014 Hub Challenge Group and on Twitter (#hubchallenge hashtag.)  Check out the tweets we’ve collected from participants and join the discussion if you haven’t already!

What about you?  Have you read anything you might have missed if it weren’t for the Reading Challenge?  What are you loving this week?  How are you feeling about your progress?  Keep reading, and don’t forget to track your titles by checking in here each Sunday to let us know how you’re doing and to find out what your fellow participants have to say.

If you are have already completed the challenge by reading or listening to 25 titles from the list of eligible books, be sure to fill out the form below so we can send you your Challenge Finisher badge, get in touch to coordinate your reader’s response and, perhaps best of all, to notify you if you win our exciting grand prize drawing! Be sure to use an email you check frequently and do not fill out this form until you have completed the challenge by reading 25 titles. 

“Life after Theft” – Stealing and Redemption in YA Books

Fri, 04/25/2014 - 07:00

Image Credit: Flickr user B Garrett

A few weeks ago, a friend and I finally got around to watching Bling Ring, Sofia Coppola’s 2013 film based on the true story of a group of privileged teens from Calabasas, California who robbed several Hollywood celebrities’ homes between 2008 and 2009. Drawing from Nancy Jo Sales’s 2010 Vanity Fair article, The Suspects Wore Louboutins, Coppola’s film is a cinematic schadenfreude delving into celebrity obsession, excessive materialism, and youthful recklessness. I’m definitely one of those people who watches based-on-a-true-story movies and, long after the credits roll, still wants to know more. I mulled over the audacious actions of these teens and wondered why they felt compelled to steal—something that Coppola’s film doesn’t really address. For more info, I sought out Sales’ article, as well as her 2013 book, The Bling Ring: How a Gang of Fame-Obsessed Teens Ripped Off Hollywood and Shocked the World.

Expanding on her article, Sales’ book exhaustively details how the “Bling Ring” stole over $3 million worth of clothing, jewelry, and accessories from Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom, and other Hollywood celebrities, and bragged about their crimes over social media. Incredibly information-savvy, the teens used Google Maps to track down addresses, as well as celebrity news blogs to monitor the comings and goings of their targets. Peer pressure, attaining social cachet, and a desire for fame were a few motivating factors in the crimes. Like the movie, the book is unclear on whether the accused were truly remorseful – its seems more likely they were sorry for getting caught. In any case, readers who love an E! Hollywood True Story-type of tale will appreciate Sales’ exposé.

Given the social and cultural taboos around stealing, I was also curious about depictions of theft and redemption in YA fiction – here are some books that cover the issue in depth without necessarily glamorizing it: 

Trinkets by Kirsten Smith (2013): This book reminds me of that Smiths song, “Shoplifters of the World Unite,” because, really, that’s kind of what happens here. Three girls from different corners of the high school social landscape come together in a Shoplifters Anonymous group and connect with each other in very surprising ways. Queen bee, Tabitha Foster, has it all – money, a hot boyfriend, and popularity. Shy wallflower, Elodie Shaw, yearns for friends and feels that stolen trinkets are the only way to earn them. Rounding out the trio is bad girl, Moe Truax, who has more to her than meets the eye. Even though it starts off with a Mean Girls-esque vibe—plenty of nasty barbs are doled out, to be sure—Trinkets evolves into an ultimately sweet story about self-awareness, and finding friendship in the most unlikely of places (and with the most unlikely people).

Life After Theft by Aprilynne Pike (2013): When Phoenix-transplant Jeff Clayson sets foot on the campus of his tony new prep school in Santa Monica, the last thing he expects is to meet a hot girl who won’t stop following him everywhere he goes. Oh, and she’s also a ghost. In life, Kimberlee Schaffer was a typical mean girl who also happened to be the school’s biggest kleptomaniac. She coerces Jeff into helping her with her unfinished business in the mortal realm, which is returning everything she stole to their classmates. Hoping to get the annoying spirit off his back, Jeff complies. However, in the course of helping Kimberlee redeem herself, Jeff discovers the importance of character and integrity. Readers will definitely relate to this charming, modern take on The Scarlet Pimpernel.

Stealing Heaven by Elizabeth Scott (2009 Best Books for Young Adults): “Dani has been trained as a thief by the best–her mother. Together, they move from town to town, targeting wealthy homes and making a living by stealing antique silver. They never stay in one place long enough to make real connections, real friends–a real life.

In the beach town of Heaven, though, everything changes. For the first time, Dani starts to feel at home. She’s making friends and has even met a guy. But these people can never know the real Dani–because of who she is. When it turns out that her new friend lives in the house they’ve targeted for their next job and the cute guy is a cop, Dani must question where her loyalties lie: with the life she’s always known–or the one she’s always wanted.” (Description from

So, readers, what are your favorite books about crime and redemption? Please share in the comments below!

-Lalitha Nataraj, currently reading an e-galley of Althea and Oliver by Cristina Moracho

Tweets of the Week: April 25

Fri, 04/25/2014 - 06:00

As usual, Twitter has been busy this week with YA related news, events, giveaways and more. Here are some of the highlights, in case you missed anything…

Contests and Giveaways

New Releases

News and Events

- Whitney Etchison, currently listening to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale

Is This Just Fantasy?: Fantastic Adult Fiction For The Voracious YA Fantasy Fan

Thu, 04/24/2014 - 07:00

I love sharing, discussing, and contemplating fantasy fiction–especially with fellow fans and readers. Happily, opportunities for such conversations happen on an almost daily basis for me.  Many of the most voracious readers among my students are fantasy fans; even as their tastes expand, these readers return again and again to this genre.  So where’s an ardent fantasy reader to turn when she exhausts her local library’s supply of young adult fantasy? One solution is to expand the search area–into the  world of adult fantasy fiction.

For some, the easiest entry into a new area of fiction is through an author. For example, Neil Gaiman writes highly imaginative fiction imbued with dark beauty and twisted humor; his adult fiction is highly popular with teens at my library. Fans of unusual fairytale retellings might start with delightful Stardust (2000 Alex Award) while urban and offbeat high fantasy readers should investigate American Gods or Neverwhere.   And frankly, all fantasy readers should read his most recent release, the enchanting The Ocean At The End of The Lane.  

Readers might also investigate authors such as: Juliet Marillier, who publishes romantic legend-inspired fantasy for both the young adult and adult fiction markets,  Marion Zimmer Bradley, who wrote an old favorite of mine, the female-focused Arthurian epic The Mists of Avalon, or George R. R. Martin, the author of the increasingly popular Game of Thrones series.   Additionally, our high school book club mentioned Anne Bishop, Jim Butcher, and Patrick Rothfuss.

However, it might also be a particular title that attracts a reader to this new resource pool.  Here, I’ve gathered a few novels recently published in the adult fiction market that will likely appeal to readers of young adult fantasy.

The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern (2012 Alex Award)  ”The circus arrives without warning.” One night the black and white striped tents will suddenly appear and for a brief time, the locals will have the opportunity to enter into a world of magic–to discover the feast for the senses beyond the circus’ wrought iron fence.  But behind the thrilling illusions rages a deadly competition between two young magicians, trained from childhood to battle each other.

This vibrant, dreamlike novel remains one of the most recommended at my library–even readers less interested in fantasy proclaim their love for this romantic and imaginative tale. 

The Bone Season - Samantha Shannon  In an alternative future, England is ruled by the totalitarian Scion and clairvoyance is highly illegal.  Paige Mahoney is a powerful dreamwalker working for a powerful voyant syndicate in London’s criminal underworld. But when she’s arrested and sent off to a hidden penal colony, even Paige’s rare gifts seem useless—especially when she learns that her jailers are not the Scion but the Rephaim, extradimensional beings connected to the same force that powers clairvoyants’ abilities. Determined to free herself and others, Paige becomes deeply entangled in a complex series of schemes—and a potential civil war.

This recent debut raced through the ranks of  fantasy aficionados at my library and remains highly praised at book club meetings.  This kick off for a futuristic fantasy of at least seven novels contains high action thrills, complex mythology, and romance.

Moth and Spark - Anne Leonard  The country is on the verge of a dangerous war.  Prince Corin recently returned from the north with unexplained gaps in his memory–and a strange connection to the nation’s long lost dragons.  Tam, the sensible daughter of a respected doctor, has arrived at court to spend the summer observing the spectacle; she did not plan to run into the prince in the library–or to accept his impulsive dinner invitation.  But as the war comes closer and Tam discovers that she is a Seer, these unlikely lovers have much more to worry about than the social rituals keeping them apart.

For readers who enjoy a more traditional high fantasy full of dragons, epic romance, and palace intrigues, this 2014 debut would be a prime choice. 

While Beauty Slept - Elizabeth Blackwell  A beautiful princess lies asleep in a tower within a silent castle, waiting for a prince to wake her with a kiss.  But is that the real story?  A young peasant woman loses everything and heads to the royal castle to seek a chance at a new life.  A gentle queen is desperate to have a child.  The king’s aunt remains hungry for the power she was denied as a woman in the royal family.  In a dark tale of ambition, love, loss, & intrigue, the true story behind the fairy tale is slowly revealed.

Lacking magic or supernatural elements, this novel doesn’t fit neatly into the fantasy genre.  Instead, it reads like historical fiction about an invented, pseudo-European medieval world,  making this title all the more appealing to both avid fantasy and historical fiction fans.   

The Golem and The Jinni - Helene Wecker In 1899, New York City is the destination for thousands of immigrants, people seeking a new chance at a different life.  And within the city’s multifaceted international communities are two highly unusual arrivals: Chava, a golem whose master died on the ship from Poland, and Ahmad, a jinni recently freed from a thousand year old flask after his entrapment in the Syrian desert.  The two supernatural outsiders begin to build a connection with each other just as a burgeoning evil overshadows their new home.

This novel also blends historical fiction and fantasy, drawing on Jewish & Arab mythologies and the American immigrant experience to weave a unique and enchanting tale. 

However, this list is just a tiny taste of the exciting possibilities out there for young adult fantasy fans in search of fresh reading inspiration.  I’m already planning a second post to include more titles I ran out of time to read, such as Kate Elliot’s Cold Magic or G. Willow Wilson’s Alif The Unseen.

What are some of your favorite adult fiction titles to suggest to fervent YA fantasy fans?

-Kelly Dickinson, currently reading  The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker and We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Three’s a Crowd? The Future of Trilogies in YA Literature

Thu, 04/24/2014 - 07:00

The ubiquity of trilogies (particularly if they are dystopian or otherwise fantastical) in young adult literature has been a topic of frequent discussion in the past few years. And for good reason. It seems like just yesterday I read the first in the epic The Hunger Divergent Mortal Legends trilogy. All joking aside, these books have all sold countless copies, sparked film adaptions (or rumored films) and had an incredible amount of crossover appeal. And I want to make it clear that I don’t consider myself immune to the hype surrounding dystopian trilogies, or trilogies in general. I was there opening weekend for Divergent and Catching Fire just like you, and I love those worlds.

But I also suspect that some of us are burnt out. It’s become commonplace to read a YA novel cover to cover with the understanding that all of this will be explained in the second or third installment. I’d argue that while most novels are judged like films for their ability to stand alone as a piece of media, trilogies work more like watching a miniseries. You know there’s more coming later, so it’s okay if you miss something the first time around. I’m not sure why three is the exact magic number, either. I think we can speculate–personally, I think one sequel is often one too few but by the fourth book one starts to wonder if the author gets paid by the word. Or perhaps there’s an inherent literary quality about trilogies that a full series lacks. The Lord of the Rings does tend to have a more erudite quality than, say, the Fear Street Saga. (Which, by the way, I love. You should all re-read the Fear Street Books. Trust me on this.) 

While I don’t have the answers, I’m very interested in thinking about whether trilogies are here to stay, or whether they have plateaued and slowly losing popularity. A semi-recent Publishers Weekly article that discusses general trends in YA asserts very plainly that there is a current anti-trilogy backlash in the market (whether it’s from readers, publishers, or both is debatable). Apparently agents are particularly excited when stand-alone novels hold the promise of another unrelated or companion novel–not a sequel, but a way to get a sense of an author’s voice. I know I read Rainbow Rowell’s 2014 Printz Honor book Eleanor and Park and 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults selection Fangirl within a few months of one another, and this experience felt just as gratifying as reading a series– without the irritation at knowing you’ll just have to wait for the next one.

On the other hand, trilogies, like television, mean we don’t have to say goodbye to beloved characters or worlds just yet. I know a lot of people would argue that saying goodbye to these words is part of the reading experience, that there is a danger in relying on sequels and trilogies. And part of me agrees with this camp too– a good trilogy is a good trilogy, but not all trilogies are good trilogies, you know? I think it makes a difference if the author has actively planned sequels or if they come as a surprise after the success of the first.

We don’t know, exactly, whether trilogies are a trend that are probably on their way out, or whether Publishers Weekly was overly zealous in its predictions. One thing we do know is that trilogy mania has, in a lot of ways, put YA literature on the map for teens and adults alike, and I think that’s something to celebrate.

What do you think, readers? Are you sick of trilogies? Do you think they’re here to stay? Sound off in the comments below!

-Chelsea Condren, currently reading She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not by Julie Anne Peters

World Book Night 2014

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 07:00

This year for the first time, I will be a book giver for World Book Night, which is this evening! This worldwide effort celebrates reading and asks avid readers and book lovers to volunteer to hand out free books to people – the hope is that these book givers will hand the books to non-readers, people who do not have easy access to libraries, or people who may not be able to afford to buy books for themselves. The titles chosen range from middle grade to YA to adult titles; classics to contemporary works; poetry to nonfiction to fiction; English and Spanish; award winners to best-sellers. Book givers can choose which book they are passionate about and hand out 20 copies of them. The authors and publishers of these books have printed special paperback editions and are willing to go without royalties so that they can spread a love of reading and a communal passion for popular titles with everyone. The list is well developed, featuring a decent spread of genres, ethnic and racial diversity, and themes.

If this has you excited, be sure to bookmark the WBN website so you can sign up to be a giver next year. But in the meantime, you can join in the joy and passion by accompanying a friend who is giving out books or by reading one of the books on this year’s list. Here are some ways you can catch up on the YA titles that are on offer….

2014 YA Books for World Book Night:

Andrews’ and Wein’s books were part of last year’s Hub Reading Challenge. Check out a reader’s response to both books here. Or read the Hub’s interview with Wein. Chbosky’s book is often challenged; read an essay on why it’s worth reading here. Flanagan’s book is a good read for transitioning tween readers, as this Hub writer notes. If you’re a fan of Hiaasen, considered a master of humor for both adults and kids, read this genre guide to YA humor. Kim’s book might be considered New Adult more than YA – learn more about that proposed category here. Or if you’re in need of an introduction to graphic novels, try this list of books that will help you get your feet wet.

Kontis’ book is not a single fairy tale retelling. Learn about the fun of fairy tale mashups here. On the more serious side of things, Myers’ book is one of many trying to make conflict in the Middle East (and the U.S. involvement in it) accessible and understandable for teen writers. Learn about other contemporary stories of war in this post. Then you have Riggs, whose book integrates found photographs with prose inspired by it. Learn about other YA books that mix words and pictures outside of the comics format.

Are any of you handing out books tonight? Or have you done so in the past? What is your favorite thing about World Book Night?

–Hannah Gómez, currently reading The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond by Brenda Woods

Jukebooks: Dangerous by Shannon Hale

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 07:00

It begins, as so many adventure stories do, with a cereal box. Maisie reads about a sweepstakes (Grand Prize – Three Weeks at Howell Astronaut Boot Camp!) and decided to enter. One would expect that from a girl named Maisie Danger Brown, even if she is missing a hand. Before she knows it, Maisie is at Boot Camp and falling in love. Then things really do get dangerous. Who would expect that a random choice of cereal would lead to saving the world?

Dangerous is also the name of a Michael Jackson album released in 1991. It enjoyed immediate, skyrocketing success. Seven singles from the album were released in the United States; the song Dangerous was not one of them. Jackson did perform to the song on numerous occasions, such as at the 1995 American Music Awards, shown below. The video clip shows his entire, amazing performance.

Jackson is obviously lip-syncing, but there is no way to fake his preternatural dance moves.

-Diane Colson, currently reading Dear Killer by Katherine Ewell

Mathematics Awareness Month: Math Is All Around

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 07:00

As we wind our way through April, many of us take the time to celebrate poetry, but how many of us pause for Mathematics Awareness Month? It seems like the perfect time to dust off and update my second Hub post ever, Fiction + Math = <3.

In that post, I looked at math-related books in several categories, among them making money, sci-fi/fantasy, making sense of the world, puzzle books, amateur detectives/solving crimes, and nonfiction. Since then, protagonists Colin Fischer and Don from The Rosie Project have both lent their logical worldviews (each is on the autism spectrum) to making sense of the world. Danica McKellar has added Girls Get Curves: Geometry Takes Shape to her series of magazine-style math instruction books. And fiction books that simply put math themes front-and-center are still around, as with The Absolute Value of Mike, in which Mike’s dyscalculia prevents him from connecting with his math-professor father.

I’ve also been keeping an eye peeled for new categories. Chess fiction definitely seems up-and-coming, with 2009 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers selection Chess Rumble starting us off recently, and David Klass’s Grandmaster and Gary Blackwood’s Curiosity appearing this year. Infographics may be more of an internet trend, but it’s reached at least a couple books: Information Everywhere: The World Explained in Facts, Stats, and Graphics and Lonely Planet’s Book of Everythingyou could even say that the “visual counting books” like DK’s series One Million Things: A Visual Encyclopedia is riding the infographic wave.

And what about Makerspaces and STEM/STEAM? I would point the maker-types to the explosion of nonfiction in their area, such as The Art of Tinkering and Make Magazine. Cory Doctorow’s Makers is an adult science fiction book with themes that may interest teens who have outgrown his Little Brother.

Last but not least, when is a book truly Gamified? Does it have to be a fully transmedia, multiplatform blowout, a la Scholastic’s The Infinity Ring series, with books, posters, passcodes, and online game components to the story? Or can it be cleverly tucked within the print book, with codes and puzzles for readers who are diligent — readers who are devouring Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library and House of Secrets, #1?

I’ll leave you with the final thought that if you’re a fan of using picture books with older readers, don’t miss the biographies The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos, and On A Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein. Enjoy the rest of Mathematics Awareness Month! <3

–Becky O’Neil, currently reading Dept. of Speculation, by Jenny Offill

Dealing with Tragedy and Terrorism in YA Lit

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 07:00

Last Patriot’s Day – a state holiday observed predominantly in Massachusetts but Maine and Wisconsin get in there  Massachusetts honoring the first American patriots of the Revolution – was a strange and hard day for many of us in the Bay State. It was a day off for many, and a start to school vacations for most students. There was the perennially inspiring promise of the Boston Marathon with such big stories as the amazing elite runners, the Hoyt father/son team running their last race, and the triumphs of every day people running their first or special race.

Shoes at the Boston marathon bombing memorial 2013 photo by Flickr user Megan Marrs

Then the bombs went off and the difficulty began. Over the next few days and since then, I’ve thought how about the marathon bombings might affect teens and especially those teens who may  have been on lockdown in their homes in Boston and many surrounding cities as the hunt for the subjects spewed gunfire along their streets.

One year later, I’ve looked to YA literature to see if anything can help us and help those teens near the disaster to deal with it. A far as I know no YA novels have been written about the tragedy yet, but it may happen as it does with many major news stories. Instead here are some books deal with running injuries or terrorism and the healing that can come after those.

Gone, Gone, Gone by Hannah Moskowtiz Set in 2002 with the two main characters still reeling from the September 11 attacks in their two respective hometowns of Washington D.C. and New York, Craig and Lio try to figure out how to be normal teens in love when the Beltway sniper attacks start. I admit to having mostly forgotten about these murders when I picked up the book, but Moskowtiz captures what I would the imagine the paranoia and terror of that situation would feel like. Through her two characters, she allows us to ponder the meaning of safety and how that affects who we love and how we recover from trauma. 

The Running Dream by Wendelin van Draanen, a 2012 Schneider Family Book Award Winner - This is the story of Jessica, an avid runner who loses a not to a terrorist attack, but rather a car accident. While recovering and itching to get the prosthetic leg that will allow her to run, Jessica makes friends with Rosa who has cerebral palsy. Rosa helps Jessica to catch up on her math and Jessica decides to help Rosa run with her. The friendship between Jessica and Rosa is what makes the book and you grow and heal along with Jessica.

 My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher – Five years after his sister Rose is killed in a terrorist attack in London, Jaime and his family are still reeling. Their mom has left, Jasmine – Rose’s twin – is breaking the rules and dying her hair pink, and their dad is always drunk. Rose’s ashes as a constant reminder to Jamie about how his life as been ruined and he doesn’t even remember her . . . or even miss her. This is a lovely story about the longterm effects of a loss and a terrorist attack. Even five years later, Jamie’s dad doesn’t like his new friend Sunya –  a smart, kind, and super-heroic Muslim girl –  because some of the terrorists who killed Rose were Muslim. The family to get back together and figure out how you move on, teaching us all a lesson about resilience.

The recent release of Stronger, by Jeff Bauman, a victim made famous when a graphic picture of himself, terribly wounded, and his rescuer became the image of the marathon bombings, may be of interest to teens as well.

It is my hope that teens witnessing either on TV or in person these events may find some hope in these books. Hopefully, the city of Boston, my current state of Massachusetts, the running community, and all affected can find closure, kindness, and hope with today’s running of the 118th Boston Marathon.

-Anna Tschetter, currently reading Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor

Conveying Disability Through Verse

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 07:00

Earlier this month in honor of National Poetry Month, Geri wrote a post about novels in verse with some great recommendations for stories that are told entirely through poetry. Her post gave me some books to add to my to-be-read list, and as someone with an interest in books that include characters with disabilities, it also inspired me to think about novels in verse that center around characters with disabilities. Here are some great options for verse novels that convey the experience of disability.

Shark Girl by Kelly Bingham – Told through a combination of free verse, newspaper stories and correspondence, this novel follows Jane as she recovers from a shark attack that ended with her having her arm amputated. She must relearn how to do day-to-day tasks and become as independent as she was before the attack. Moreover, as an artist, she must decide whether she can still make art in the wake of this experience. Readers who enjoy this book can follow her life further in the follow-up novel, Formerly Shark Girl, which is also told in verse.

Beanball by Gene Fehler – Star athlete Luke “Wizard” Wallace loves nothing more than playing sports, with one for every season of the year. His future plans and his identity all revolve around his role as an athlete. In the first game of his new baseball season, all of this changes in an instant when a pitch hits him in the head, shattering his skull and blinding him in one eye. The story alternates between over 20 characters’ points of view, giving a picture of how an accident like this impacts an entire community and follows Luke as he tries to adapt to his new reality.

T4 by Ann Clare LeZotte – In the late 1930s, Paula Becker is a young German girl struggling to communicate with those around her and gain an education at a time when there are limited educational options for deaf children. Her existence is suddenly threatened by rumors that the Nazis have instituted a policy that takes children with disabilities from their families never to be seen again. Through verse, LeZotte tells the story not only of those with disabilities caught up in Action T4, Nazi Germany’s program to eliminate individuals with disabilities, but other groups persecuted and killed in Nazi Germany.

Reaching for Sun by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer – Josie Wyatt has never felt that she fits in at her school due to her cerebral palsy. But, when a new boy moves in close to her, she not only begins to build a friendship that has nothing to do with her disability, but also learns to take control of her own life. In this Schneider Family Book Award winning book, readers understand not only disability, but also her emotions about the impact it has had on her life and her hopes and dreams for the future.

I Need You More Than I Love You And I Love You To Bits by Gunnar Ardelius – Touching on emotional upheaval, first love, bipolar disorder and family life, this brief novel uses verse to tell the story of two teens in love in Sweden. The poetry captures the characters’ emotions skillfully, which is even more impressive given that it has been translated from the original Swedish. It is a touching and universal story that shows the power of free verse.

A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman – This book, which will be published on May 1st, is the story of Veda, a young woman in India who lives to dance. Despite her mother’s wishes that she study hard to become an engineer, Veda devotes her time to the bharatanatyam dance form and wishes to be a professional dancer when she grows up. After winning a prestigious dance award, she is in a traffic accident that crushes her leg and makes her a below knee amputee. Unwilling to give up on her dream of dancing, she finds a new dance teacher who is willing to help her relearn how to dance and reconnects with the spiritual side of dancing. Told through verse, the book conveys Veda’s emotions and vividly captures the power that dance has in her life.

Beyond novels told entirely in verse, there are also some great books about disability that center around poetry even though they are not told in verse. These are a great option for those who love poetry or who aren’t sure that they are ready for a story told entirely through verse. Two great examples are this year’s Schneider Family Book Award winner and Best Fiction for Young Adults Top Ten selection, Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein, which follows a young woman in World War II who ends up in a concentration camp with many women who are disabled due to Nazi medical tests, and a 2014 Morris Award finalist, Dr. Bird’s Sad Advice for Poets by Evan Roskos, which tells the story of James Whitman’s fascination with Walt Whitman as well as his struggles with anxiety, depression and serious family issues.

What are your favorite books that use poetry to convey the experience of individuals with disabilities? Let me know in the comments!

- Carli Spina, currently reading Handbook for Dragon Slayers by Merrie Haskell

The Monday Poll: Bring ALL the tissues!

Mon, 04/21/2014 - 01:04

photo by flickr user xctmx

Good morning, Hub readers!

Last week, we asked you to choose the worst best friend in YA lit. Slytherins beware: Draco from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling came in first with 29% of the vote. Next was Ali from Sara Shepard’s Pretty Little Liars series with 23%, followed by Shay from the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld with 20% of the vote. But they’re all just misunderstood, right?! (Hmmmm…) In addition to your votes, reader Adele suggested Holly from Fiona Wood’s Wildlife. It comes out in September, so we’ll have to wait and see! You can see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive. Thanks to all of you who voted and commented!

This week, we have a simple- but actually very difficult- question for you. The movie trailer for If I Stay, based on Gayle Forman’s novel of the same name, was released last week, and between this movie and the theatrical release of The Fault in Our Stars, based on the John Green novel, it looks like this summer is going to be emotionally tough on us YA lit fans. We know both books are outstanding: If I Stay was named a Teens’ Top Ten pick in 2010 and The Fault in Our Stars was a Teens’ Top Ten pick in 2012. Based on the trailers, both movies based on these beloved books are shaping up to be amazing. So what we want to know is:  which movie is going to make you cry harder?

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 #11

Sun, 04/20/2014 - 07:00

Not signed up for YALSA’s 2014 Hub Reading Challenge? Read the official rules and sign up on the original post. Anything you’ve read since February 3 counts, so sign up now!

Happy Sunday! I am loving all the comments on the books you’ve all read and what your favorites are. So excited to see love for Boxers and Saints! Two of my favorites from last year. I put it in the hands of almost everyone and even had the children’s librarian use it as supplemental material for her book club!

What books have surprised you the most in your readings?  If you haven’t finished or even signed up yet, don’t worry! You still have plenty of time. The challenge ends on June 22.

As I said before, I’m not participating in the challenge this year, but I am still following along on social media by checking the Goodreads 2014 Hub Challenge Group and the #hubchallenge hashtag. We’ve collected some tweets from your fellow participants– join the conversation if you haven’t already!

[View the story "The 2014 #hubchallenge" on Storify]

Keep reading, and remember, you have plenty of time to get through this challenge; it ends at 11:59PM EST on June 22nd. Please keep reading and tracking your progress and check back here each Sunday to let us know how you are doing and to see how other folks are doing.

If you are have already completed the challenge by reading or listening to 25 titles from the list of eligible books, be sure to fill out the form below so we can send you your Challenge Finisher badge, get in touch to coordinate your reader’s response and, perhaps best of all, to notify you if you win our exciting grand prize drawing! Be sure to use an email you check frequently and do not fill out this form until you have completed the challenge by reading 25 titles.

Aftermath: How YA Novels Deal With Shootings

Sun, 04/20/2014 - 07:00

photo by flickr user Andrew_Writer

I began preparing this post last spring in observance of the Columbine High School tragedy, which occurred on April 20, 1999. Then the Boston Marathon bombing occurred, so I held off on posting because I felt that there were too many fresh wounds for people to read such a post. And I had my own issues, because I lived in Boston. But now I think it’s important to write this post, because sadly, these events occur far too regularly for me to find the perfect time to post, where it’s not too recent but not too far from everyone’s minds. And it has already been 15 years since Columbine, and yet there is no shortage of similar events to fill that space.

When it comes to Columbine, today’s teens mostly have no memory of this event, which may even have occurred before they were born. And unlike tragedies of the past few years, where we have had texting, tweeting, and news streaming online to keep us abreast of events as they unfold, many of us only knew about Columbine after it happened. This brings up a lot of thoughts about safety, over-exposure, and security – if we all have Internet access in most places, is it our duty to notify others about emergencies as they take place? Does that impede the measures of emergency personnel trying to get the situation under control, or does it help more people get to safety? Is checking Twitter for news all the time healthy, does it desensitize us, or does it depress us? I recall my experience of living in Boston on the day of the manhunt; after a good four hours of watching the same five news reports over and over again, I had to turn it off, watch some fun TV, and make snacks with a friend, because it was simply too exhausting. Then again, having so much access to news forces us to engage with current events and consider how they affect our lives.

So here is a simple list of YA novels that have attempted to unravel and understand how teens deal with violent occurrences – leading up to them, during them, and after them. No commentary, just publisher copy and a Goodreads link. I hope these can be helpful, meaningful, or healing for you.

And We Stay (2014) by Jenny Hubbard
“When high school senior Paul Wagoner walks into his school library with a stolen gun, he threatens his girlfriend Emily Beam, then takes his own life. In the wake of the tragedy, an angry and guilt-ridden Emily is shipped off to boarding school in Amherst, Massachusetts, where she encounters a ghostly presence who shares her name. The spirit of Emily Dickinson and two quirky girls offer helping hands, but it is up to Emily to heal her own damaged self.”

Bruised (2013) by Sarah Skilton
“Imogen has always believed that her black belt in Tae Kwon Do made her stronger than everyone else–more responsible, more capable. But when she witnesses a holdup in a diner, she freezes. The gunman is shot and killed by the police. And it’s all her fault.

Now she’s got to rebuild her life without the talent that made her special and the beliefs that made her strong. If only she could prove herself in a fight–a real fight–she might be able to let go of the guilt and shock. She’s drawn to Ricky, another witness to the holdup, both romantically and because she believes he might be able to give her the fight she’s been waiting for.”

Crash and Burn (2013) by Michael Hassan (2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults)
“On April 21, 2008, Steven “Crash” Crashinsky saved more than a thousand people when he stopped his classmate David Burnett from taking their high school hostage armed with assault weapons and high-powered explosives. You likely already know what came after for Crash: the nationwide notoriety, the college recruitment, and, of course, the book deal. What you might not know is what came before: a story of two teens whose lives have been inextricably linked since grade school, who were destined, some say, to meet that day in the teachers’ lounge of Meadows High. And what you definitely don’t know are the words that Burn whispered to Crash right as the siege was ending, a secret that Crash has never revealed.

Until now.”

Hate List (2009) by Jennifer Brown (2012 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults)
“Five months ago, Valerie Leftman’s boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria. Shot trying to stop him, Valerie inadvertently saved the life of a classmate, but was implicated in the shootings because of the list she helped create. A list of people and things she and Nick hated. The list he used to pick his targets.

Now, after a summer of seclusion, Val is forced to confront her guilt as she returns to school to complete her senior year. Haunted by the memory of the boyfriend she still loves and navigating rocky relationships with her family, former friends and the girl whose life she saved, Val must come to grips with the tragedy that took place and her role in it, in order to make amends and move on with her life.”

Endgame (2006) by Nancy Garden
“A new town, a new school, a new start. That’s what fourteen-year-old Gray Wilton believes as he chants, “It’s gonna be better, gonna be better here.” But it doesn’t take long for Gray to realize that nothing’s going to change–there are bullies in every school, and he’s always their punching bag. Their brutal words, physical abuse, and emotional torture escalate until Gray feels trapped in a world where he has no control, no support systems, and no way out–until the day he enters the halls of Greenford High School with his father’s semiautomatic in hand.”

Project X (2004) by Jim Shepard
“In the wilderness of junior high, Edwin Hanratty is at the bottom of the food chain. His teachers find him a nuisance. His fellow students consider him prey. And although his parents are not oblivious to his troubles, they can’t quite bring themselves to fathom the ruthless forces that demoralize him daily.

Sharing in these schoolyard indignities is his only friend, Flake. Branded together as misfits, their fury simmers quietly in the hallways, classrooms, and at home, until an unthinkable idea offers them a spectacular and terrifying release.”

Shooter (2004) by Walter Dean Myers (2005 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)
“Cameron: ‘Deep inside, you know that whoever gets up in your face gets there because he knows you′re nothing, and he knows that you know it too.’

Carla: ‘What I′m trying to do is to get by — not even get over, just get by.’

Leonard: ‘I have bought a gaw-juss weapon. It lies beneath my bed like a secret lover, quiet, powerful, waiting to work my magic.’

Statement of Fact: 17-year-old white male found dead in the aftermath of a shooting incident at Madison High School in Harrison County.

Conclusion: Death by self-inflicted wound.”

Give a Boy a Gun (2002) by Todd Strasser (2002 Audiobooks for Young Adults)
“For as long as they can remember, Brendan and Gary have been mercilessly teased and harassed by the jocks who rule Middletown High. But not anymore. Stealing a small arsenal of guns from a neighbor, they take their classmates hostage at a school dance. In the panic of this desperate situation, it soon becomes clear that only one thing matters to Brendan and Gary: revenge.”

Drive-by (1997) by Lynne Ewing
“‘Jimmy always told me there were only two kinds of gangbangers: Those who were dead and those who were going to die. Joining a gang doesn’t make sense to Jimmy…’

Jimmy is dead now – gunned down in front of his little sister, Mina, and his brother, Tito. And Tito is left wondering: Was Jimmy in a gang after all? Ice Breaker Joe and Lamar think so. They say Jimmy was skimming their drug money. And if the missing cash isn’t returned, Tito may have to pay – with his life.”

“If any good thing came out of Columbine, it was the elevation of attention given to this epidemic problem and the very rapid emergence of a subgenre of young adult literature that continues to explore the many aspects of this issue with insight and empathy” -Michael Cart, Young Adult Literature: From Romance to Realism

–Hannah Gómez, currently reading The Dark Between by Sonia Gensler

Tweets of the Week: April 18

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 07:00

Here are some tweets you might have missed this week from the world of YA lit:


Book Trailers

‏@HarperChildrens: Trailer alert! Share the video for @jawhitebooks‘ spellbinding tale THE THICKETY: A PATH BEGINS, out next month! …


@TLT16: Chloe Grace Moretz will be killing aliens in ‘The 5th Wave’ | EW
@PWKidsBookshelf: Film rights to Olivia Kidney novels acquired by Moonbot Studios; will be live-action with animation sequences
@Somers_Library: ROOM by Emma Donoghue Headed to the Movies
‏@PWKidsBookshelf: ‘Catching Fire’ sweeps MTV Movie Awards
‏@eonline: MTV Movie Awards: Videos You Didn’t See on TV With Shailene Woodley, Chrissy Teigen and More!
@gayleforman: Are you ready for #AllTheFeels? Then watch the first #IfIStayMovieTrailer here- …


Want to win OUT OF THIS WORLD Lunar Chronicles swag? Join the Resistance and help #SaveCRESS
@4everYA: Author @MichaelaMacColl stops by FYA to discuss literary heroines and give away a signed copy of ALWAYS EMILY! …


@TLT16: When talking about sexual violence it is important to remember that boys can be victims too . . . …
@TLT16: For National Library Week: Libraries Are the Beating Hearts of Communities …
‏@LibraryofCT: Author Judy Blume on the value of libraries  #NLW14 #LivesChange
@sljournal: SLJ’s two new awards: School Librarian of the Year Award and Build Something Bold! @joycevalenza
‏@Scholastic: “Regular library visits inevitably lead to more #reading.” Great @HuffingtonPost list about going to the #library
@Scholastic: It’s National Library Week, so why not take a virtual tour of America’s public libraries? Great photos from @npr: …


@catagator: Cover double, triple, and formerly quadruple. One stock image, four YA books: …
@catagator: Expectations for girls in YA fiction, misleading reviews, and sexuality …
@catagator: Are teen girls seeing themselves in what they read? @yaloveblog surveys her high school students: …
@TLT16: For today’s Middle Grade Monday @RobinReads is struggling with the realities of working w/kids in poverty …
@TLT16: GLBTQ lit for middle grade and ya readers …

Just for Fun

@Lisagwray: You asked and author @Jkagawa answered!  via @goodreads @HarlequinTEEN
@WorldBookDayUK: “@PaperAndCup: Celebrating @WorldBookDayUK today in #shoreditch with #literarysandwiches” LOVE this!
‏@PWKidsBookshelf: J.K. Rowling writes Quidditch match reports for Pottermore | Guardian
@meganmccafferty: Ask! Authors! Anything! Ep. 2 with @halseanderson goes live Monday! What’s YOUR question for Laurie Halse Anderson? Tweet me! #AAALHA

~ Jennifer Rummel, currently reading Greetings from the Graveyard by Kate Klise

It Really Happened: YA Fiction Based on True Events

Fri, 04/18/2014 - 07:00

I wanted to write this mostly because of one YA writer who has begun the trend of basing her YA fiction books on real crimes. Initially, I thought I would focus on the increasing number of YA historical fiction books coming out that are based on true crime stories like the Jack the Ripper rip-off killings in Maureen Johnson’s Shades of London series. But, I realized that her books aren’t historical fiction, they are contemporary novels that contain events based on true historical events.  So, I will focus here mostly on contemporary YA fiction with elements based on true historical events – with a few exceptions (I can’t resist a book based on a true story where a woman pretends to be a man and gets away with it).

A Soldier’s Story: the Incredible True Story of Sarah Edmonds. A Civil War Hero by Marissa Moss (2012, pbk. 2014) is   is based on the true story of nineteen-year-old Sarah Emma Edmonds, who masqueraded as a man named Frank Thompson during the Civil War. Her adventures include serving as a nurse on the battlefield and spying for the Union Army, and being captured by (and escaping from) the Confederates. Sarah narrates her riveting story as she deals with the dangers of living a lie and the horrors of war and even the complications of romance while posing as a man.

The book includes real photographs taken from the Civil War. Moss states in the epilogue that the bones of the story are all true; she used actual names of the soldiers who served with Sarah and she used Sarah’s actual diary and that of others as primary source materials. She also says that of the over 400 women who dressed a man during the war, most shared with secret with loved ones. Only Sarah was known to have lived as a man before enlisting and the only one to be recognized by acts of Congress as an honorably discharged soldier.

Another intriguing historical fiction YA book that I like is Makiia Lucier’s debut historical fiction book, A Death –Struck Year (2014). It vividly describes the impact of the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918. Seventeen-year-old Cleo of Portland, Oregon signs up to volunteer with the Red Cross to help but struggles to help the sick and dying as she wonders if she’ll suffer the same fate as so many others. At the same time, she hopes for a future with a handsome medical student and war vet named Edmund.   This is based on the real-life pandemic considered the most devastating in recorded world history and includes extensive source notes. An afterword explains the Spanish flu phenomenon and places it in the historical context of the early 20th century.

If you are of a certain age, you will be very familiar with the inspiration for several of these other books. I used to say to people that I was Sharon, like Sharon Tate, as a way to remind them of my name. Some of you might know who that was. Younger people and teens will probably have no idea, but Sharon Tate’s name is synonymous with the Manson Family cult.  While that’s ancient history to many of you, it’s still very memorable to those of us who were around when her name made the news in 1969. The author I wanted to highlight is Micol Ostow because her recent books all focus on horrific events that are based on actual crimes.

Ostow’s book family (2011) is about a girl named Melinda, 17, who leaves her fractured family life behind and sets out for San Francisco. She meets a handsome, charismatic man named Henry who offers her love, a bright new consciousness and, best of all, a family. But, this family, while appearing to be everything Mel craves, isn’t all its cracked up to be. They share everything, including their chores, beliefs and even their bodies. If Mel really wants to belong she has to join in and do everything they do. Is she is willing to go this far and at what cost? Told in verse, this is a fascinating look at cult dynamics that’s made even more chilling if you recognize that it’s loosely based on the 1969 Manson Family murders. It also takes an unflinching look at people who are born broken, and the lengths they’ll go to make themselves whole again.

Ostow’s upcoming novel, Amity,  (publishing 8/26/2014) is a very scary horror story, based on the real Amityville Horror story from the 1970s that is told in parallel narratives by a boy, Connor, 17, and by a girl, Gwen who both live in an evil house called Amity ten years apart. The house terrified Connor ten years ago with nightmares and strange sounds and visions and now it does the same with Gwen. The publisher states that, “Amity isn’t just a house. She is a living force, bent on manipulating her inhabitants to her twisted will. She will use Connor and Gwen to bring about a bloody end as she’s done before.  As she’ll do again.” Ostow’s  YA thriller is based on the real-life story of a family named Lutz who moved to a house in Amityville on Long Island in 1975 a year after a man shot and killed six members of his family there. The Lutzes knew this but moved in anyway, only to leave after 28 days because they claimed to have been terrorized by paranormal activity in the house. The case was the basis for the adult book The Amityville Horror: A True Story by Jay Anson (1977) that spawned a series of movies between 1979 and 2013. From the moment the book was published, there has been controversy about its accuracy, but, despite the lack of corroborative evidence, it remains a fascinating legend to this day.

My Book of Life by Angel by Martine Leavitt (2012) (2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults) is about 16-year-old Angel, who is grieving the death of her mother, and starts to shoplift shoes at the mall, fantasizing that she’s living a good life. Soon she falls prey to a pimp who buys her meals and tells her she’s pretty, eventually offering her a home in Vancouver, hooking her on crack, and forcing her into prostitution. This is based on real events of prostitutes who were murdered in Vancouver in the 80s and Leavitt honors them by listing their names in end of the book.

One book I’m really dying to read is Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman, coming out next Tuesday. It’s a fictionalized story of Adolph Hitler’s niece in WWII Germany. According to an interview from Jan. 21, 2014 with Anne by Carol Baldwin on Carol’s blog, Anne said she’s always been fascinated by World War II and after she read the book Geli, by Ronald Hayman, about Hitler and his beloved half-niece, she couldn’t get Geli out of her head. She says, “The lure of writing about a girl ensconced in the Nazis’ hyper-masculine, violent world was irresistible. I needed the freedom of having a fictional main character, though, so Gretchen Müller was born. But how, I wondered, can Gretchen figure out what the Nazis really stand for? How can she break free? Once I had my answers, I started writing.”

In the end, I realized there are more historical YA books with a real true-crime element than I’d originally thought.What other books have I missed in this trend?

-Sharon Rawlins, currently reading Divided We Fall by Trent Reedy and listening to Jennifer  Nielsen’s The Shadow Throne: Book 3 of the Ascendance Trilogy


YALSA’s 2014 Teens’ Top Ten Nominations Announced!

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 07:00

Put your party hats on– it’s Celebrate Teen Literature Day!

This is a great day for YA lit fans, because not only is it an opportunity for us to spread the word about how much we love books for teens, it also brings the announcement of this year’s Teens’ Top Ten nominations!

The Teens’ Top Ten is a “teen choice” list where every title is nominated and voted on by teens. Voting will start on August 15 and run until Teen Read Week, during which the winners will be announced. For YA lit gifs, info, and fun all year long, be sure to follow the Teens’ Top Ten tumblr.

And now… the nominated titles for the 2014 Teens’ Top Ten list!

Read on for the annotated list of titles (also available in a handy PDF for easy printing)…

  • Arnett, Mindee. The Nightmare Affair. Tor Teen. (9780765333339).
    Dusty Everhart a Nightmare, (literally!), has been trying to escape the shadow of her mother’s reputation, and one night, while dream-feeding, she sees the crime scene of a murder victim who attends her high school, a school for supernatural children. When she arrives back on campus, she finds, to her horror, that the dream had come true. Now she must use dreams to find the killer and save victims-to-be in order to stop an ancient darkness from returning.
  • Banks, Anna. Of Triton. Macmillan/Feiwel and Friends. (9781250003331).
    After Emma’s mother, the long lost Poseidon princess returns to the sea, the Syrena begin to bring her identity into question. When all hope seems lost, and appears the Royals have a revolution on their hands, Emma has the opportunity to use her Gift to save those that she loves. But at what cost will her choices bring to not only her, but also to those she considers her family.
  • Bardugo, Leigh. Siege and Storm. Macmillan/Henry Holt Books for Young Readers. (9780805094602).
    Alina, a sun summoner on the run from the evil Darkling, is searching for a way to increase her power and save the ones she loves. But as her power grows she falls deeper in the Darkling’s grasp and farther away from her best friend and love, Mal. When the time comes Alina must choose between her love, her power, or her lust for the Darkling and all of his power.
  • Block, Francesca Lia. Love In The Time Of Global Warming. Macmillan/Henry Holt Books for Young Readers. (9780805096279).
    Penelope believes she is the last person alive in the city of Los Angeles after a massive earthquake destroyed the majority of the earth. After encountering a group of survivors, however, she begins to have hope in whatever may be left of the world, whether it be love, trust, and, just maybe, her family. Modeled after Homer’s Odyssey, Pen goes on a post-apocalyptic journey filled with Giants and butterflies in an attempt to find her way home.
  • Charbonneau, Joelle. The Testing. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ( 9780547959108).
    Cia is chosen to participate in The Testing, a government program that will select the brightest graduates who show potential for becoming future leaders in this post-apocalyptic world. Cia’s excitement of being chosen soon dies when her father warns her of the experiences he faced when he was chosen. Cia must trust no one if she hopes to come back alive. However, will she be able to face the dark, unholy truth about the testing? One kept whether you leave… Or don’t?
  • Dashner, James. The Eye of Minds. Random House/Delacorte Press. (9780385741392).
    Michael is an average kid who plays video games, but this video game, the Virtnet, is different than others. You can die in it physically and mentally, and that happens to a girl named Tanya who rips out her core and commits suicide. Suddenly, Michael is whisked away by the designers of the VirtNet and is given a mission by them to find a cyber terrorist, named Kaine, who is suspected of killing gamers.
  • Edwards, Janet . Earth Girl. Prometheus Books /Pyr . (9780007443499).
    In 2788 humanity has developed technology that allows them to portal between many habitable worlds except for those are deemed “the handicapped”, those who are born with a one in a thousand chance of having  an immune system that cannot tolerate other planets. Jarra, a handicapped 18-year old student with a passion for history, creates a false identity for herself and enrolls in a college course for students from other planets in an attempt to get revenge for the way the handicapped are looked down upon.
  • Gleason, Colleen. The Clockwork Scarab. Chronicle Books. (9781452134680).
    The niece of Sherlock Holmes, the world’s first consulting detective, and the half-sister of Bram, the vampire slayer, are thrown together to find out why high society girls are being murdered and what a mechanical scarab beetle has to do with it.
  • Gray, Laurie. Maybe I Will. Luminis Books. (9781935462712).
    One life-altering, life-changing event which dramatically effected Sandy, and not in the good sort of life-changing events like winning the lottery or having a kid, will leave you thinking. Finding true friends and activities that allow Sandy to really be free and let off steam is all that keeps Sandy sane and is an important factor in putting Sandy’s life back together once again.
  • Henry, April. The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die. Henry Holt Books for Young Readers. (9780805095418).
    Cady wakes up in a up in a dark, torn apart cottage hearing someone tell another man to “finish her off.” To make things worse, not only does she not know why she’s in the cabin or why the men are trying to kill her, she also doesn’t remember who she is. Eventually, she escapes and meets up with Ty, a boy who is willing to help her even at the risk of losing his own life. Together they attempt to figure out what happened to make her lose her memory.
  • Howard, A. G. Splintered. ABRAMS/Amulet Books. (9781419704284).
    Alyssa, a girl already struggling with life in general, is pulled into something dark and mysterious. She follows in the footsteps of her ancestor, Alice, and goes down the rabbit hole to right the wrongs that Alice caused to cure her family of their “curse”. Instead of finding Lewis Carroll’s Beautiful wonderland she finds a dark and twisted version with monstrous creatures that aren’t as nice as the ones in the novel or as pretty.
  • Kate, Lauren. Teardrop. Random House. (9780375990694).
    Eureka has only ever cried once in her life and the one time she did, her mother told her to never cry again. Ever since then, she has never shed a tear; not even when her mother was killed in a tragic freak accident. Unbeknownst to Eureka, she was also supposed to die, but Ander couldn’t bring himself to let her die despite the threats that Eureka possesses because of her tears.
  • Konigsberg, Bill . Openly Straight. Scholastic. (9780545509893).
    Rafe has been out of the closet for years.  After transferring to an all-boys boarding school, however, he decides to keep his sexual orientation to himself.  But when he meets Ben, a teammate on his soccer team, he wonders if their friendship-turned-more is worth outing himself for.
  • Laybourne, Emmy. Monument 14: Sky On Fire. Macmillan/Feiwel & Friends. (9780312569044).
    When disaster strikes in the city of Monument, 14 kids are huddled in a Greenway store for shelter and survival. They decide their only chance of living through this nationwide disaster is to make their way to Denver International Airport where the military is evacuating people to safety. Will they make it alive or will they meet their doom like others have?
  • Richards, Natalie D. Six Months Later. Sourcebooks/Fire. (9781402285516).
    Chloe Spinnaker is an average student just barely making the grade. But one day spring day, after falling asleep in study hall, she wakes up to snow and an empty classroom. Six months of her life has passed and she has no clue what happened except that now she is popular and has lots of friends that is, except Maggie, the one true friend she had before everything changed. Bewildered by the sudden time lapse in her life, Chloe decides to embark on a mission where she stops at nothing to figure out what happened to her and to get her memories back.
  • Rowell, Rainbow. Eleanor & Park. Macmillan/St. Martin’s Griffin. (9781250031211).
    The year is 1986 when Eleanor arrives in town to live with her family and abusive step-father. It’s been a year since the last time she lived with them, and she doesn’t expect life to be any better. Park’s life, on the other hand, is going steady. He’s got a spot in the popular crowd and he’s about to get his driver’s license. But when the two meet on the bus, things change drastically. Even though they both know high school romances never last, they’re going to try everything they’ve got to make it work. But in end, will everything they have be enough?
  • Sales, Leila. This Song Will Save Your Life. Macmillan/Farrar, Straus and Giroux. (9780374351380).
    Elise Dembowski is a high school loser. After reaching the tip of the iceberg and facing suicidal thoughts just months before, Elise is searching desperately for a way out of her nearly friendless life. When she accidentally finds a dance club called Start, Elise’s life finally takes off as she meets new people, makes new memories, finds a new passion, and discovers herself.
  • Sanderson, Brandon. Steelheart. Random House/Delacorte Press.  (9780385743563).
    Ten years ago, Calamity came; a light in the sky that appeared one day and many believe that somehow it was connected to the rise of the Epics. These beings, once human, now have all kinds of amazing and dangerous powers that have enabled them to take over the world, and one could argue the most dangerous one is Steelheart. Able to bend the elements to his will and turn any non-living substance to steel, many say he’s invincible because they’ve never seen him bleed — except for David, who will stop at nothing to get his vengeance and see Steelheart bleed again.
  • Sanderson, Brandon. The Rithmatist. Tor Teen. (9780765320322).
    Joel wants to be a Rithmatist more than anything. Rithmatists have the power to bring two dimensional beings called Chalklings to life and defend against the wild chalkings that threaten to overcome the Rithmatists. Joel is student at Armedius Academy, a prestigious school where Rithmatists and wealthy children go to learn. When a string of kidnappings begin to occur Joel must gain assistance from the Rithmatists at Armedius Academy in order to bring order back to the academy.
  • Smith, Jennifer E. This is What Happy Looks Like. Little, Brown & Company. (9780316212823).
    Ellie is the girl from Middle-of-Nowhere, Maine, and Graham Larkin is the hot superstar sensation from Middle-of-Everything, California. While Ellie hides from the media, Graham is constantly being watched by the paparazzi. However, an email mistake from Graham to Ellie starts an online relationship between these two teens, marking the start of a friendship and something more. Can Ellie accept Graham despite all the publicity? Or will the media be the demise of this couple’s happiness?
  • Smith, Andrew. Winger. Simon and Schuster. (9781442444928).
    Ryan Dean West is a fourteen year old junior trying to make everyone else blind to the one thing that makes him different than everyone else, his young age. This is not easy though, as he must prove himself to everyone – the girl of his dreams, his scary roommate, his friends, and the rugby team. As Ryan Dean tries to survive his junior year, he encounters horrifying injuries, moments of ecstasy, and shattering heartbreak.
  • Stine, R.L. A Midsummer Night’s Scream. Macmillan/Feiwel & Friends.  (9781250024343).
    Claire, a girl with a dream to become an actress, finally gets her chance when her parents decide to remake Mayhem Manor, a movie that was never finished because of 3 real deaths. As the camera starts rolling on the remake, strange things begin to happen. Like the little hairy man Claire meets by the makeup trailer one day. Who or what could be the cause of these actors’ deaths?
  • Tucholke, April. Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. Penguin/Dial. (9780803738898).
    Violet, a sassy, independent, and sharp-tongued young lady, rents out the side cottage on her parent’s estate in the hopes of making a little extra money to pay the bills. Her easygoing customer is as dangerous as he is mysterious, and murders and madness soon sweep her little home town. She takes it upon herself to understand him and the events, but only finds a darkness she can only hope to escape with her sanity and safety.
  • Winters, Cat. In The Shadow of Blackbirds. ABRAMS/Amulet Books. (9781419705304).
    It’s the fall of 1918: The Spanish Influenza and the horrors of World War I grip the world with terror, and spiritualist photography, as the face of death seems to greet every household in America, has become increasingly popular.  After her father is arrested as a suspected traitor, Mary Shelley Black travels to San Diego, hoping to escape the flu while living with her Aunt Eva.  Only a few days after arriving, Mary Shelley is told that Stephen, her sweetheart who recently became a soldier, has been killed in France.  But Stephen’s spirit hasn’t left yet, and he desperately needs Mary Shelley’s help.
  • Yancey, Rick. The 5th Wave. Penguin/Putnam Juvenile. (9780399162411).
    Present day – the aliens have invaded the planet, or as Cassie likes to call them, the Others.Almost everyone has been killed off by the 4th Wave, and now, Cassie one of the few survivors living now during the 5th wave, roams the country while trying to stay alive to find her brother – that is, if he’s still alive. When she’s taken in by a boy named Evan, she realizes that he’s different. He’s not like her, but he’s all she’s got. Cassie has to overcome her doubts and trust issues if she wishes to survive the 5th wave.

Young Adult-Picture Book Pairings: Cinderella Stories

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 07:00

The two types of books I check out most from the library are young adult books and picture books. In my case, this is because I’m a thirty-something librarian who likes to read YA books, while I have three kids who like like to read picture books. It occurred to me that I might not be the only reader who’s currently interested in both YA and picture book audiences: lots of teens have younger siblings, many librarians at small libraries serve patrons who run the gamut of ages, and some people just like to read both picture books and YA books! I’ve also noticed that some themes and stories appear frequently in both types of literature, so I’ll be doing an occasional series on picture books and YA books that go together.

The first theme for this series basically chose itself… I love fairy tale retellings, and my middle child has been obsessed with Cinderella for the last year and a half, and going strong! There are tons of Cinderella retellings out there, so I tried to select a few of our family favorites for the picture book selections, and some YA options that have garnered attention in recent years.

Picture Books

Adelita: A Mexican Cinderella Story, retold and illustrated by Tomie dePaola. A version that doesn’t rely on magic, the story of Adelita shows how a sweet disposition, a childhood friendship, and the help of a beloved family servant win Adelita her happily-ever-after.

Cinderella, retold by Max Eilenberg, illustrated by Niamh Sharkey. There are many retellings of the “classic” French version, first attributed to Charles Perrault, and this is one such retelling. Eilenberg takes some liberty with the story though, by giving the narration more of an oral storytelling feel, adding a third ball (Perrault’s version has two), and letting Cinderella’s father redeem himself in the end (in Perrault’s version, he is the quintessential hen-pecked husband who does not stand up for his daughter.

Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China, retold by Ai-Ling Louie, illustrated by Ed Young. In this version, lovely Yeh-Shen seeks help not from a fairy godmother but from a magic fish, who manages to help her even beyond death. Caldecott award-winning artist Ed Young cleverly incorporates the fish in the background of many of the illustrations, and my kids have fun finding him.

Cinderella’s Rat, written and illustrated by Susan Meddaugh. Those who love Meddaugh’s Martha the Talking Dog stories will not be disappointed by this funny take on Cinderella, told by the rat who becomes her coachman, er, coachboy. The poor rat has trouble trying to care for his sister, who was not transformed, while hiding his true identity, but all’s well that ends well… even if it’s not the happy ending one might expect.

Cendrillon: A Caribbean Cinderella, retold by Robert D. San Souci, illustrated by Brian Pinkney. This French-Caribbean version, told by Cinderella’s godmother (who is not a fairy, but does have some magic) is both beautiful and gives an interesting commentary on how magic can only take you so far.

Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters, retold and illustrated by John Steptoe. A Caldecott Honor book from 1988, this well-loved tale compares two beautiful sisters: haughty Manyara and humble, kind Nyasha. Both daughters have the chance to travel to the royal city and meet the king when he searches for a bride, but their different behaviors on the journey clearly differentiate who should become queen.


Young Adult Books

Before Midnight by Cameron Dokey. Baby Constanze is born too early, causing her mother’s untimely death. The red hair and green eyes imparted by her mother only make her father, Etienne de Brabant, rue her existence the more, and he all but abandons her to the care of her godmother. He also leaves an unidentified baby boy to be raised in his household. When La Cendrillon and Raoul, as the two become called, grow older, they are drawn into court intrigue and the twists and turns that hidden identities bring.

Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George. Princess Poppy (one of the sisters forced to dance night after night in George’s previous Princess of the Midnight Ball) visits cousins in the country of Breton to help create goodwill among the different kingdoms of Ionia. While there, she makes friends with Prince Christian of Danelaw and resigns herself to attending balls, although she avoids dancing as often as she can. When an unpleasant maid named Ellen mysteriously starts to appear as the belle at every ball, Poppy is one of only a few who realize that dark magic may be behind it. Will Poppy be able to solve the mystery of Ellen’s unknown benefactor before Ellen gets herself in too deep? For those who like knitting, it appears in this installment as well!

Ash by Malinda Lo (2010 William C. Morris Finalist, 2014 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults Top Ten). Ash (short for Aisling) forms an odd (and dangerous) friendship with the fairy Sidhearn after the death of both her parents lands her in servitude to an evil stepmother. Sidhearn can provide the impossible, but when Ash also becomes friends with the King’s Huntress, Kaisa, she begins to wonder if an eternity in the fairy realm is actually what she wants.

Chinese Cinderella: The True Story of an Unwanted Daughter by Adeline Yen Mah (Best Books for Young Adults 2000). A young adult version of her autobiography Falling LeavesChinese Cinderella narrates Mah’s childhood, ruled by a real-life cruel stepmother and often at odds with her own brothers and sisters. The love of an aunt and her own success in school help her to eventually build a life for herself, and her story is as fascinating as any fictional tale.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer (Best Fiction for Young Adults 2013, Teens’ Top Ten 2012). A science fiction Cinderella? This popular tale, set in a future New Beijing with a cyborg mechanic heroine offers just that. Cinder is despised by both her stepmother and society because of her cyborg status, but the combination of attracting business from the prince himself and her stepsister’s contraction of a deadly plague means that her strategy of keeping her head down won’t last any longer. Cinder is volunteered to be a plague research subject, and a discovery made in her body gives her the power to save the world (and maybe catch a prince).

Bound by Donna Jo Napoli (Best Books for Young Adults 2005, Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults 2010). Drawing on similar source material to that used for Yeh-ShenBound tells the story of Xing Xing, the daughter of a poor but happy potter and his second wife. With both of her parents dead, Xing Xing’s stepmother treats her as a servant while frantically trying to arrange a marriage for her own daughter, Wei Ping. Xing Xing is not much troubled by her own lack of marriage prospects–she certainly doesn’t envy her half-sister’s aching bound feet–but when Stepmother kills the carp that has revealed itself as the spirit of Xing Xing’s mother, Xing Xing must decide how to unbind herself.

I know I missed at least a few Cinderella retellings–I discovered more YA versions while compiling this list, and there are probably hundreds of picture book versions of Cinderella. Share your favorite below!

-Libby Gorman, currently reading The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)