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Your Connection to Teen Reads
Updated: 1 hour 49 min ago

Jukebooks: Girls Like Us by Gail Giles

Wed, 01/14/2015 - 07:00

This week I started with a song, “That’s What Friends Are For, ” by Dionne Warwick and friends, and then chose a book. Going with the spirit of the line,

Keep smilin’, keep shinin’,
Knowing you can always count on me, for sure.
That’s what friends are for.

I selected Gail Giles’s book, Girls Like Us. The story is about two girls, Qunicy and Biddy, who have absolutely nothing in common except mental disabilities. After finishing high school, there is no where for them to go. So they end up as roommates. It’s not friendship at first sight by any means, but by the end they have established a hard-won trust in each other. This is the kind of friendship I connect with the song, a solid connection that holds people together through all of life’s circumstances.

“That’s What Friend Are For” was written by Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager in the early 80s. Rod Stewart sings it for the soundtrack of the movie Night ShiftHere’s Stewart’s version:


But the Dionne Warwick version is more famously known. In 1986, Warwick recorded it with Elton John, Gladys Knight, and Stevie Wonder as part of a benefit for the American Foundation for AIDs Research. At the time, AIDS was a dreadful, mysterious disease; many musicians and celebrities died while waiting for AIDs research to begin. This is the version of the song most likely to be heard on an oldies station, I’ve omitted the video of that performance because it looks terribly lip-synced. Nevertheless, the voices sound fabulous together, so here’s the audio:

The clip below is from a live performance at the Soul Train Music Awards in 1987. The line-up here is Luther Vandross, Whitney Houston, Dionne Warwick and Stevie Wonder.

-Diane Colson, currently reading an advanced readers copy of Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver

Contagious Passion: Characters Doing What They Love

Tue, 01/13/2015 - 07:00

“The things that you do should be things that you love, and things that you love should be things that you do.” -Ray Bradbury

Passion is contagious. I love hearing people talk about what they love. I’m sucked into their story, even if they are describing something I didn’t find remotely interesting prior to that moment. This is just as true for me in fiction as it is in real life. I am almost immediately won over by characters in a ruthless pursuit of a passion, whether it manifests in a career aspiration, hobby, vocation or, dare we say, calling. Below are just a few characters and their passions I have enjoyed sharing.

Labors of Love:

Cath- Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Cath is a passionate reader and a fan of the fantasy series featuring boy wizard Simon Snow. But Cath isn’t just a fan, she is an active participant in the fandom.  As “Magicath,” she writes Simon Snow fanfiction, first with her sister and then on her own. Writing fanfiction serves as an escape when her own life is difficult or lonely, and it’s Cath’s own fan base that, in part, helps her gain the confidence she will need to write original characters that tell her own unique story. Fangirl readers not only get to read Cath’s story throughout the novel, but her own Simon Snow fanfiction as well.

Will and her friends- Will and Whit by Laura Lee Gulledge; Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens

If I had to give an award for the most unique hobbies I have ever encountered in fiction, I would give it to Wilhelmina and her friends. As Will introduces her friends to the reader, one of the first things we find out about each of them is what they are passionate about.  Will makes her own lamps mostly out of objects found in her aunt’s antique shop, her friend Autumn practices puppetry, Noel is constantly baking, and his little sister Reece makes up-cycled jewelry.  Readers looking for a graphic novel offering some D.I.Y. inspiration need look no further than Will and Whit. One thing I love about Will and her friends’ hobbies is the way they find ways to share them with their community.  When Hurricane Whitney sweeps through, causing a town-wide blackout, and leaving locals bored, Will and her friends each contribute their talents to a makeshift arts carnival. With a phobia of the dark and a tragic past, making lamps becomes a way for Will to cope with her fears and, eventually, process and express her emotions.

Nate, the robotics club, and the cheerleaders - Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen, Illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks; Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens

Nate is president of the high school’s robotics club, a small but dedicated group, struggling for their school’s meager extracurricular funds.  Unfortunately, the school’s cheerleaders are just as dedicated and want the same funding for their cheer uniforms. Though the two groups initially have it out for each other, they become united by their lack of money, and use a cutthroat robotics competition as a last ditch effort to win prize money.  My favorite part of this graphic novel is that two groups bond over the fact that they both love what they do, even though what they love couldn’t possibly be more different. Nate and his friends have to deal with stereotypes surrounding what they love, but they fight them with an inspirational vengeance. (Cheerleaders are NOT dumb, and don’t EVER tell a girl that she shouldn’t be into robotics!)

Dream Jobs

Kami- Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan; Popular Paperbacks Nominee, Best Fiction for Young Adults

Kami’s not old enough to be a professional investigative journalist yet, but that doesn’t stop her from single-handedly running her school newspaper. She’s not afraid to be a little pushy if it means she’ll get a highly sought interview, and when strange things start happening in her small town of Sorry-in-the-Vale, her journalist curiosities cannot be tamed! Main characters are often driven to solve the mystery, if only so that we as readers get to watch them do it.  It’s fun to see Kami try to get the scoop, not only for personal reasons, but because she is a journalist and inquiring minds want to know.

Darcy- Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld; Best Fiction for Young Adults Nominee

Darcy Patel is living her dream.  After cranking out a young adult novel during National Novel Writing Month, she has been signed by a major publishing company and puts off college to do her rewrites in a glamorous apartment in New York City surrounded by like-minded young writers.  Afterworlds treats readers to all of  Darcy’s excitement in being a writer, but also all of her trepidation. Now that she’s made it, she gets to go on tour and meet other famous authors, but she also has to put in the hard work of doing her rewrites and writing her sequel. The novel alternates between Darcy’s life as a writer and chapters of her unpublished novel. We get to see her struggle with word choice, plot and character development and get to watch her slow realization that pursuing a passion can sometimes be incredibly hard work.

Emi- Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour; Best Fiction for Young Adults Nominee

Living in Hollywood, Emi is perfectly positioned to find work as a film set designer. After close readings of a script, she is responsible for adding furniture and wallpaper to a room, as well as all the little details that add to the mood of a scene or make a space someone’s unique home. Emi is so emotionally invested in her job that she is always on the clock. She is always seeking out a perfect prop or knickknack that will make her set complete, and she views everything in her life through the lens of a set designer. When she meets people, she theorizes about what their homes look like. Even when she finds herself falling in love with a young actress, she cannot help but take note of the types of plates she picks to stock her kitchen.





-Emily Childress-Campbell, currently reading The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

Analysis of TIME Magazine’s 100 “Best” Books for “Young Adults”

Tue, 01/13/2015 - 07:00

Most librarians love a booklist. But when major media outlets cover young adult fiction, the results are sometimes…mixed. So it was with a healthy dose of skepticism that many young adult librarians viewed Time Magazine’s release of its list of 100 Best Young Adult Books.

While the list does include many fantastic young adult novels, and many other books that are classics in their own right, it is not without its deficiencies. For your convenience, I’ve made a spreadsheet of all the titles (no clicking through slideshows!) and added the publication date and any ALA awards the title has won.

By my count, about half of the books are best described as middle grade or adult fiction, and some very important and influential authors and books were not included. As many have pointed out, the list is almost all white. The list only includes nine books written by seven different authors who are people of color or American Indian:

  • Sherman Alexie
  • Isabel Allende
  • Walter Dean Myers
  • Marilyn Nelson
  • Pam Munoz Ryan
  • Mildred D. Taylor
  • Gene Luen Yang

In a time when the community of young adult and children’s publishing is advocating for diversity, the lack of it seems even more egregious.

But perhaps the issues with some of the titles can be  attributed to the shifting definition of young adult literature.

What is “young adult literature?”

As I’m sure everyone reading this knows, young adult fiction is tricky to define and difficult to categorize—especially when trying to assemble a “best of” list spanning literature from the mid 19th century to today.

YALSA acknowledges the amorphous nature of young adult literature, and discusses not only its importance, but also its history, in the The Value of Young Adult Literature, written by Michael Cart and adopted by the YALSA board in 2008. “The term ‘young adult literature”’ is inherently amorphous, for its constituent terms ‘young adult’ and ‘literature’ are dynamic, changing as culture and society — which provide their context — change.“ Which demonstrates the challenge of compiling a list of “best” young adult novels of “all time” especially when neither terms are defined.

Currently, young adult literature is defined most often as being written for teenagers from 12-18 years of age. These are often coming-of-age stories, where characters come to an understanding about not only themselves, but their place in the world. They can be dark and gritty, and when appropriate, contain violence and sex. In contrast, middle grade fiction, aimed at readers 8-12, focuses more on character’s relationship with self and family, spend less time on self-reflection, and almost always end on a hopeful note. And of course, young adult fiction differs from adult fiction, not only because the protagonists are teenagers themselves, but the voice and style of the narrative is more immediate, while adult fiction where teenagers are the main characters often have a reflective tone.

Of course, these lines are blurry. Many books receive a 10-14 age designation from the publisher, which straddles the middle grade/young adult divide, and many adult books have crossover appeal to teens. In fact, YALSA has an award to recognize adult fiction with teen appeal—the Alex Award. Some younger readers are ready for young adult fiction, some readers are more comfortable with middle grade fiction even as they age. These labels are only guides.

Some books I’m confident are clearly children’s literature: Beezus and Ramona, Charlotte’s WebMrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh, and Matilda, for example. Some books on the list fall into this gray area and there are arguments to be made in favor of them being labeled adult or middle grade.

But just because there isn’t always a definitive answer as to whether a book is middle grade or young adult doesn’t mean that a separate category for young adults isn’t important. When teens are able to see themselves reflected in fiction, it supports their development of a positive identity, social competencies, and cultural values.

What is “best”?

Time Magazine doesn’t make any attempt to define why these books made the cut and others didn’t. There doesn’t appear to be any consideration for longevity, as a handful of very recent publications make the list, and literary merit is certainly not the only factor, as several books will be remembered more for their popular appeal than their fine prose. Both elements are relevant to the discussion.

YALSA produces several lists and bestows awards in an attempt to help readers identify “best” books written each year, particularly Best Fiction for Young Adults list and the Printz Awards. YALSA also honors authors who have made significant contributions to the field of young adult literature with the Edwards Award, a sort of “lifetime achievement” award. They all have varying criteria.

Best Fiction for Young Adults policy and procedures define the list as “a general list of fiction titles selected for their demonstrable or probable appeal to the personal reading tastes of the young adult. Such titles should incorporate acceptable literary quality and effectiveness of presentation.” This criteria balances quality with popular appeal. This list as also evolved over the years and the criteria for eligible titles has changed. The list, prior to 2010, included nonfiction titles and graphic novels, and was called Best Books for Young Adults. The following books appear on top ten lists of BFYA or the earlier BBYA top ten lists:

  • A Monster Calls (2012)
  • The Hunger Games (2009)
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian (2008)
  • The Invention of Hugo Cabret (2008)
  • American Born Chinese (2007)
  • The Book Thief (2007)

The Printz Award honors the “best” book published for young adults, and “best” is defined soley by literary merit.

  • Where Things Come Back (2011)
  • Looking for Alaska (2007)
  • American Born Chinese (2007)
  • The Book Thief (2007)
  • An Abundance of Katherines (2007)
  • A Wreath for Emmett Till (2006)
  • A Northern Light (2004)
  • Speak (2000)
  • Monster (2000)

The Edwards Award honors authors “for significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature… [and] recognizes an author’s work in helping adolescents become aware of themselves and addressing questions about their role and importance in relationships, society, and in the world. The following Edwards Award winners appeared on the list (which means that half of them did not):

  • S. E. Hinton
  • Robert Cormier
  • Walter Dean Myers
  • Judy Blume
  • Chris Crutcher
  • Ursula K. LeGuin
  • Francesca Lia Block
  • Laura Halse Anderson
  • Susan Cooper
  • Marcus Zusak
  • Madeleine L’Engle
  • Gary Paulsen

“Best” is hard to define. Some question the inclusion of certain books, like Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight. But few other books have had influenced the genre and its position in the wider landscape of literature. If cultural effect is a component of the criteria, it certainly deserves its place on a list. While this list does highlight many titles that may have been forgotten, it also promotes stories that are better suited to a juvenile audience and overlooks many modern classics.

The journalists responsible for Time Magazine’s article did consult who they deemed experts in the field: “Children’s Poet Laureate Kenn Nesbitt, children’s book historian Leonard Marcus, the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature, the Young Readers Center at the Library of Congress, the Every Child a Reader literacy foundation and 10 independent booksellers.”

Which means they didn’t ask any librarians. So I’m wondering: who do you think this list left out that should be included in a best YA novel list, if the audience of this list is today’s teens or readers of modern young adult literature?

  • Jay Asher
  • Neal Shusterman
  • Maggie Stiefvater
  • Nancy Garden
  • Alex Sanchez
  • Ellen Wittlinger
  • Benjamin Aliré Saenz
  • Tamora Pierce
  • Jacqueline Woodson
  • Libba Bray
  • Rick Yancey
  • E. Lockhart
  • Melina Marchetta
  • Marcus Sedgwick
  • Ruta Septys
  • Laini Taylor
  • Andrew Smith
  • A. S. King
  • Sara Zarr

I suggest the above authors, who have all been honored by one of the YALSA awards discussed above, but I want to know what you have to say. Leave your thoughts in the comments. Perhaps the next time a major news outlet decides to publish such a list, journalists will consult the dedicated young adult librarians who serve on committees, read widely, and are sympathetic and responsive to the needs of the people who young adult books are intended to reach—teenagers.

— Molly Wetta, currently reading Where Things Come Back by John Corey (again) and Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas



Resolve to Read Better in 2015

Mon, 01/12/2015 - 07:00

As is usual with all new year tasks, I’m a bit behind on reading resolutions for 2015. Crazy as it seems, it’s almost halfway through January! I’ve been thinking about this due to some great reading resolution posts from around the internet. Book Riot has some especially great posts about how trying to read as many books as possible isn’t always the greatest and some suggestions for “reading harder.” Pop Sugar also has an interesting list of ideas to spur your reading habits.

Of course there are also the excellent and fun reading challenges that we do here on the Hub like the Morris/Nonfiction challenge and the Hub challenge. There’s still time to get in on the Morris/Nonfiction challenge and then get ready for the Hub challenge after the Youth Media Awards are announced! Full disclosure: I didn’t quite finish the Hub challenge last year but may give it another go this year!

In addition to these reading challenges and resolutions, I loved following all of the updates and news about the We Need Diverse Books campaign and thought that I was doing well reading diversely. But then I took a look at all of the books that I read last year and so many of the authors were white, straight, and featured characters who were the same, and a lot like me. In the library where I work, most of the teens that I see all day are minority students. And most of them are boys. My reading – about a lot of white girls in science fiction or fantasy settings – may not be necessarily speaking to their experiences. It’s actually pretty embarrassing; I should be doing better! I try my best to be an advocate for LGBTQ students and our populations of color. I buy a lot of diverse books for my library’s teen collection. I guess I just don’t read as many as I should. 

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t read the final Raven Boys book coming out this year because oh my goodness the Raven Boys! I’m definitely going to be reading that. But I’m also going to make an effort to read books that feature characters of all different races and ethnicities, sexual orientations, gender identities, and characters with disabilities and issues that I necessarily haven’t faced in my life. I thought that I was making an effort to do this all along but I just wasn’t trying hard enough. I will do better this year.

I firmly believe that you should be able to read what you want, but I also acknowledge that our world is diverse and beautiful and I need more of those stories in my life. I have experienced plenty of stories where the characters are like me; now is the time for me to broaden my mind even more. I’m not going to treat this year as a checklist of diversity that I need to hit but rather a reminder to myself that my experiences of reading are better when I’m learning new and challenging things.

I’m also going to try and read books that would help me recommend books better to teens and this means reading more genres that I don’t generally like, like romance or mystery. Nothing strikes more fear into my heart then when a teen asks for more books like Sarah Dessen’s. I can recommend other titles based on articles from here on the Hub but not because I’ve actually read them.

Just a few titles I’m planning to read!

I’m going to change that. These are just a few of the books I’m planning to read this year to increase diversity in my reading:

Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis

Endangered by Lamar Giles (out April 2015)

Girls like Us by Gail Giles

How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon

Prophecy by Ellen Oh (The third book in the series, King, is out in March 2015)

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins (This title, a 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults pick, is less about diversity in the greater world of YA books and more about the fact that I have to force myself to read contemporary romance books….)

What about you? Will you be trying to read more diversely or participating in the Hub Challenge? Or do you have any other reading resolutions you’d like to share?

-Anna Tschetter, currently reading Prophecy by Ellen Oh

The Monday Poll: Crushworthy Guys in YA Historical Fiction

Sun, 01/11/2015 - 23:23

Good morning, Hub readers!

Last week, we asked which YA lit character you would choose to receive a makeover from. The makeover guru of Panem won by a landslide: Cinna from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins took in 56% of your vote. In second place was Regan from Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, with 16%. It might be hard to convince her to give you a makeover, but if you’re successful, you definitely won’t regret that eyeliner. 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 you to tell us who is the most crushworthy guy in YA historical fiction (and don’t worry, YA historical girls will be up for discussion next week). Which rake or gentleman makes you swoon? Vote in the poll below, or by all means add your choice in the comments!

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

YALSA’s 2015 Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge Check-In #5

Sun, 01/11/2015 - 07:00

Not signed up for YALSA’s 2015 Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge? Read the official rules and sign up on the original post. If you’re finished, fill out the form at the bottom of this post to let us know! 

Doesn’t it still feel like the beginning of the month? I find myself thinking ,”This year just started, this month just started, I have got plenty of time to finish up The Hub’s Morris/Nonfiction challenge before the Youth Media Awards on February 2.” And then I look closer at the calendar and a tiny bit of concern creeps in – January 11th? That’s almost mid-way through January! I’ve only got three weeks to finish up!

I didn’t make you concerned did I? You are not like me. Tell me you are farther along the challenge than I am. Tell me (in the comments below) that you have finished The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming and The Scar Boys by Len Vlahos. That you enjoyed the audiobook of Leslye Walton’s The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender and were one of the lucky ones who got your hands on Laughing at My Nightmare by Shane Burcaw (my library has a mile long waiting list for that book.). Or, make me completely astounded and fill out the form at the bottom of this post because you have completed the challenge!

If you talk about books on social media, and you are taking part in the challenge, won’t you please use #hubchallenge to let the world know? And remember that any Morris Award finalists or YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction finalists you read as part of this challenge will count towards The Hub Reading Challenge, starting in February.

OK, time to calm myself down. There are still three weeks and eight hours until the challenge ends. I totally got this.

~Geri Diorio, currently reading The Carnival at Bray by Jessie Ann Foley


Women In Comics: Looking Ahead to 2015

Fri, 01/09/2015 - 07:00

Photo entitled “Change the last number! Happy new year!” by clement127. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

As 2015 opens, I have decided to focus this month’s Women in Comics post on the great comics from women that we can look forward to this year. It looks as though 2015 will bring many exciting options for fans of everything from superheroes to memoirs. Get ready for some great reads in the new year!

Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Marvel will be bringing their Squirrel Girl character back as an ongoing series created by Erica Henderson and Ryan North. The series starts this month, so you can check it out right now.

G. Willow Wilson: Author G. Willow Wilson has two exciting projects coming in 2015, the release of volume two of Ms. Marvel at the end of March and her involvement with the X-Men series starting this month. Both are part of her recently announced exclusive deal with Marvel, which may well point to a future with many more Marvel Universe stories from Wilson.

Klarion Vol. 1 by Ann Nocenti with illustrations by Trevor McCarthy: In Summer 2015, Nocenti will bring classic character Klarion to Gotham City. The book will combine classic Gotham City elements with magic, which should bring new fans to the Gotham City universe.

Gamora by Nicole Perlman: Last fall at a panel during New York Comic Con, Marvel announced that Nicole Perlman, the co-author of the hugely successful Guardians of the Galaxy movie, will be writing a new ongoing series about Gamora, a popular character from that film. Fans will have to speculate about the specifics because few details have been released, but one way or another we can expect to see its launch this spring.

A Black Widow YA Novel: Though not quite a comic or graphic novel, those who love both YA and comics will be happy to know that Margaret Stohl, co-author of the Beautiful Creatures series and author of the Icons series, will be writing a young adult novel about Black Widow for Marvel. It will be very interesting to see how this character is translated from comics to a non-graphic novel medium!

Bodies by Si Spencer with illustrations by Tula Lotay and Phil Winslade: Spanning multiple centuries in London, this series moves from past to future focusing on four different detectives. It should be a good bet for fans of mysteries and strong artwork.

Fiona Staples: Recently Staples has been best known for her wonderful work on Saga with Brian K. Vaughan, but in 2015 she will be branching out considerably as she takes on an ongoing role in the Archie comics with Mark Waid. This promises to be quite a bit different than her most recent work, so I am very excited to see what she will bring to the series.

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson: This standalone graphic novel about a young girl who goes to roller derby camp while her best friend goes to dance camp looks like it will be a lot of fun. And, it is by an author who is herself a roller derby enthusiast, so it will offer an interesting look into this world at the same time. It is scheduled to be released in March.

Lumberjanes Vol. 1 by Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis with art by Brooke Allen: The first collection of the Lumberjanes series will be released in April, which is great for libraries and those who missed the first issues of this popular series. The spring will be big for Noelle Stevenson, as the very next month the Nimona graphic novel, based on Stevenson’s acclaimed webcomic, will also be released.

Becky Cloonan: Cloonan is another author with multiple projects on the horizon for 2015. The first collected volume of her Gotham Academy series, written with Brenden Fletcher with art by Karl Kerschl, is due to be published this summer. Perhaps even more exciting, she has an entirely new series with Andy Belanger entitled Southern Cross debuting in March. This scifi story set in space looks great both in terms of art and story, so it is definitely one I will be eagerly awaiting!

Displacement by Lucy Knisley: The latest installment in Knisley’s graphic novel memoirs, Displacement, focuses on Knisley’s trip on a cruise with her grandparents. I have loved Knisley’s past works, including Relish which YALSA included on the Great Graphic Novels 2014 list, so I cannot wait for this one.

Along the way there will also be releases of other series continuations involving talented women including Coffin Hill Vol. 2: Dark Endeavors by Caitlin Kittredge with illustrations by Inaki Miranda, Harley Quinn Vol. 2: Power Outage by Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti with illustrations by Chad Hardin, Catwoman Vol. 6 by Genevieve Valentine, and Alex + Ada Vol. 2 by Sarah Vaughn with illustrations by Jonathan Luna.

I’m sure there are tons of other great comics from women coming this year, so let me know in the comments if I have missed any!

– Carli Spina, currently reading Funny Misshapen Body by Jeffrey Brown

Tweets of the Week: January 7, 2015

Fri, 01/09/2015 - 07:00

Happy New Year! Lots of stuff going on in the twitter world this week. The Cybil awards were announced! People are talking about book to screen adaptations for 2015, reading resolutions, and lots of upcoming books. Don’t worry if you missed one – I’ve got you covered.

Bookish News:

 Book Resolutions:




Just for Fun:

~ Jennifer Rummel Currently Reading Meet your Baker by Ellie Alexander

Best Of 2014 Lists: Selected Titles

Thu, 01/08/2015 - 07:00

Happy 2015!  Last year (yup) Geri Diorio posted a fantastic summary of the best young adult books lists from 2014 including Horn Book, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal. My New Year’s resolution was to annotate a title selected from each list and/or category. No, I didn’t hit every single genre (sorry poetry). But it was great fun and I conclude that 2014 was definitely  wonderful year for YA books!

Here are my selections, listed alphabetically by author’s last name.

From: Horn Book, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Nonfiction, Female Author

The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia

By Candace Fleming

An examination of the Romanovs (Russia’s last imperial family),  the country’s revolutions and political strife in the the years 1905-1917, and (in their own words) brutal accounts of what life was like for the common peasants of this time.   Explores the notion of the “chosen” class,  Russia’s last heir Alexei who was a sickly child affected by hemophilia (a secret closely held from the Russian people), and the mystery surrounding the children’s missing bodies from the grave discovered in Koptyaki Forest. Visual source materials also help portray this gripping account.

From: Kirkus, Realistic Fiction, Debut Female Author (Morris Finalist)

Carnival at Bray

by Jessie Ann Foley

Elephant Rock Productions, Inc

The year is 1993. Maggie is a fish out of water; her freewheeling, hard drinking mother married Colm (an Irish citizen) and moved the family from Chicago to Bray, a small seaside village in Ireland. Little sister Ronnie fits in right away, but Maggie’s only friend is Dan Sean the town’s oldest resident who boasts 99 years and mostly falls asleep during Maggie’s visits. Maggie has a crush on Eoin (a local boy) but can hardly find the courage to mumble a greeting. Uncle Kevin (only ten years her elder) is a mid-twenties lost soul who still lives with his mother and plays in a band; Maggie’s hero for general awesomeness and for introducing the girl to good music (he brought her to a Smashing Pumpkins concert back in Chicago.) When tragedy strikes it comes as no surprise to anyone but Maggie.


From: Kirkus, Fantasy, Female Author

The Devil’s Intern

by Donna Hosie

Holiday House

Mitchell died at seventeen and has been in hell for the last four years. Though actually, hell isn’t so bad; just lots of paperwork and overcrowding. Mitchell even has three awesome friends; Alfarin a Viking Prince who died in battle in 970, Elinor a sweet girl who died saving her brothers in the Great Fire of London 1666, and “Medusa” (Melissa) who died in circumstances unknown in San Francisco during the summer of love. Mitchell is plagued by feelings of unfulfilled potential (he was a musical prodigy “up there”) and with burning questions of why he ran into the street in front of a greyhound bus. So when Mitchell realizes that his boss is stashing away a time-traveling device the gang naturally decide to steal it and go change their deaths.


From: Horn, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, Realistic Fiction, Female Author

We Were Liars

by E. Lockhart

Delacorte Press

Only child Cadence spends her summers frolicking with cousins Johnny and Mirren and family friend Gat with minimal adult supervision. I guess the thought is: what trouble could they get into on a private island? During her fifteenth summer, the three aunts drink white wine (which the cousins pilfer) while newly widowed patriarch (Cadence’s grandfather) presides over all happenings like King Lear. Then a tragic accident leaves Cadence physically damaged– but the mental consequences are far more severe: she cannot remember anything that happened. Two summers later Cadence returns to the island and tried to piece together what happened.

From: Kirkus, Mystery, Female Author, Debut Author

Far From You

by Tess Sharpe


Sophie’s best friend Mina was brutally murdered.  And Sophie was there (she remembers only a gun and ski mask) but escaped untouched but for the vial of Oxycontin slipped into her pocket. Sophie was sent away to rehab.  Set up as a relapsed addict (and also explained away by the police as a drug deal gone wrong), no one believes Sophie and no one else is looking for Mina’s true killer.  Mysteries unfold in the typical who-done-it manner but Sharpe explores deeper mysteries of the heart and of addiction.


From: Kirkus, School Library Journal, Fantasy, Female Author

Blue Lily, Lily Blue
by Maggie Stiefvater.


The highly anticipated third book in the “Raven Cycle” finds the group back to school but still obsessed with finding Glendower’s tomb. Maura’s continued absence worries Blue. Each (living) member of the group battles unique demons. Building upon characters and events known developed in the previous two books in this series (The Raven Boys and Dream Thieves) Stiefvater blends realistic life situations with high fantasy elements. Here the story takes a darker turn with more serious consequences as we ramp up for the conclusion.


From: Horn, Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly, School Library Journal, Graphic Fiction, Female Authors

This One Summer

by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tam

First Second

Rose is an only child who spends summers at Lake Awago with her parents. She and her summer friend Windy (a year younger than Rose) swim, ride bikes, talk about boobs, and watch scary movies. This year Rose’s parents are fighting about something that happened last summer, but no one will talk about it. Rose and Windy spend so much time at the convenience store that they overhear some drama; an older teenager whom they call “The Dud” has impregnated a local girl and won’t call her now. Who is in the wrong?  Is the girl, as the boys claim, a “slut”? Charcoal sketches set the scene.


From: Publisher’s Weekly, Science Fiction, Male Author


By John Corey Whaley

Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Travis Coates’ body gave out at age sixteen after he suffered from acute lymphoblastic leukemia.  Miraculously the boy was restored to life four years later; same head (cryogenically frozen) on a newer healthy body (donated). So… now that Travis is back he has to basically accept that his life was on pause while the rest of his loved ones moved on. Amongst other problems (such as attending high school with his friends’ younger siblings) Travis’ best friend came out to him four years ago and is now back in the closet, his parents are being weird, and worst of all he is still in love with Cate (his past girlfriend) who is now four years older and has moved on.

So, what books did you read in 2014?  Any deserving titles not make it on one of the lists mentioned?

– Tara Kehoe, currently Reading: I’ll Give you the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Wordless Picturebooks for All Ages: Shaun Tan’s The Arrival

Thu, 01/08/2015 - 07:00

The following is a guest post from Mary Catherine Miller, a member of YALSA’s Research Committee, and is crossposted today on the YALSAblog. 

I recently worked on a project with three other teacher-researchers who had all used Shaun Tan’s (2006, Lothian Books/Hachette Australia) wordless text The Arrival in our different classrooms. We initially connected due to our shared frustrations trying to have graphic novels approved and celebrated as “quality literature.” I was teaching undergraduate students, some of whom had never even seen a graphic novel before entering my classroom while my peers had trouble getting administrators to approve or purchase graphic novels for their classroom use.

When talking about our favorite comics, we realized that we had all taught The Arrival in various contexts—I had taught The Arrival to my own pre-service teachers and was excited to hear how other teachers had used the same text in their own classrooms. How could one book, particularly a graphic novel, be useful to so many types of students?

We took The Arrival into elementary, middle school, high school, and university classrooms to see how students of various ages and backgrounds responded to the text. These four small case studies became the basis for a larger research project analyzing The Arrival and art education.

The Arrival tells the story of a man’s immigration through visual symbols and images. The reader follows the man as he leaves his family, travels to a fictional foreign land, finds a home, works to survive, and makes connections with the people he meets. All signs and words in the story are represented through indecipherable symbol-texts, displacing the reader and (as we argue) equalizing the reading experience. The sequential art of the story allows readers to imagine their own narratives and envision themselves in the story regardless of their ability to read written English.

In 2008, The Arrival was on the ALA’s Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults, ALA’s Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens, and also was named a Notable Children’s Book (for Older Readers). Graphic novels are not always supported in educational settings and each of our research projects was initially met with hesitation, either from administration or from the students themselves. While some of my students were resistant to the text, others seemed to intuitively recognize the potentialities for the book: “The ambiguity…that exists in having no [words] is what makes it such a unique tool for the classroom. It is completely up to one’s own thought to construct what they feel is happening to the characters.”

A middle school student echoed my college student’s statement: “Anyone’s opinions can be different from others. They can interpret pictures other ways and get a different story. Like, I was saying that they were sad that they were leaving. And I interpreted the supposed dragon’s tail thing as sorrows. But someone else could call it, like, poverty or legal problems.”

Many of us had our students read The Arrival collaboratively—I had my students first read the book in groups, co-creating meaning as they read the text. Our elementary students were shown the text together and then explored the narrative through dramatic inquiry—role-playing and writing letters as though they were characters of the story. In their actions, these elementary students experienced empathy and reflected on the immigrant experience. One of my university students commented “[The Arrival] tells my story” and shared her own immigration experiences, helping the class to develop a multi-cultural perspective. This wordless picturebook helped students across grade-levels and experiences move towards empathy and multicultural lessons about immigration and language.

While many picture books are initially thought of as children’s stories, we found that many high school and university students interacted with the story with the same enthusiasm as children, and that children were capable of the critical thinking skills that we typically expect of older readers.

Mary Catherine Miller is a doctoral candidate at the Ohio State University, where she teaches undergraduate courses in children’s literature and young adult literature. This is her second year as a member of YALSA’s Research Committee.

Jukebooks: Life in the Fat Lane by Cherie Bennett

Wed, 01/07/2015 - 07:00

Lara is the envy of the girls at Forest Hill High School, and why not? She’s beautiful, her family has money, and she can eat whatever she likes without gaining a pound. She glows as homecoming queen. But when Lara breaks out in hives, she takes a medication that causes her to gain weight. Horrified that she has gained ten pounds in a month, Lara stops taking her medicine. The hives come back. Lara’s perfect life turns into a nightmare as her weight soars over two hundred pounds. Everything changes.

Life in the Fat Lane was published in 1998, but it’s message of thin-is-in is even more true today. In 1998, no one was worrying about a “thigh gap.” But Lara’s feelings as she goes from pretty/popular to lonely  and laughed at still ring true today.

The title of the book is a play on “Life in the Fast Lane,” a song by the rock group Eagles. It’s included in their 1976 album, Hotel California. Add that title song plus another track, “New Kid in Town,” and a timeworn theme emerges: Not all that glitters in LA is gold.

The connection between a book that examines the fragile allure of body shape and a song that peels away the glamour of Hollywood  is stronger than it first appears. Here’s the music:

-Diane Colson, currently reading The Girl With All the Gifts by M. R. Carey.

On Agent Carter’s Nightstand

Tue, 01/06/2015 - 07:00

I’m a huge fan of the Marvel Universe, so I’m really excited to learn more about Agent Carter in the mini-series that premiers tonight. Here are some books I imagine might be on her nightstand should the occasion arise when she’s in need of a good read. They are all about feisty heroines, just like herself.

The Girl is Murder by Kathryn Miller Haines (2012 Readers’ Choice List)
After her father lost his leg at Pearl Harbor, the Andersons had to move. Now he’s a private investigator. His daughter, Iris, stumbles across his latest case and realizes that she could be of some help. Secretly, she attempts to gather clues on her own.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (2013 Teens’ Top Ten, 2014 Popular Paperbacks, 2013 Printz Honor Book)
A British spy plane crashes over Nazi territory in France leaving two girls in very grave danger.

Women Heroes of Word War II by Kathryn J. Atwood
Twenty six stories of espionage, sabotage, resistance, and rescue from women who all risked their life to help stop the Nazis. From a housewife to a law student to a radio operator in Europe and America, these women made a difference.

Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee
Mary Quinn’s rescued from a life as a thief in Victorian England. Years later after schooling, she discovers that the school for young ladies is simply a cover for an all female spy agency. When she’s asked to join, Mary agrees, eager for her first assignment. Posing as a lady’s maid, she must search the house for proof of the missing cargo ships without getting caught. She’ll need all her new skills to uncover the truth and get out alive.

Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan
Meg Fellowes, great a picking pockets, steals from the wrong man. Now instead of touring with a theater group, she’s given the choice between the dungeon or becoming a Maid of Honor (a spy for the young Queen Elizabeth). For her first assignment, she’s given the job of observing the Spanish delegation – a job that her predecessor failed. Can Meg keep her head while discovering the truth?

At the House of the Magician by Mary Hooper
As a runaway, Lucy’s future doesn’t have many options. Her luck turns when she becomes maid in the house of John Dee. When she overhears an assassination plot against Queen Elizabeth, Lucy must warn the Queen.

~ Jennifer Rummel currently reading Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King

The Twelfth Day of YA

Mon, 01/05/2015 - 07:00

This year on the Hub we are celebrating the Twelve Days of YA with a series of posts loosely based on the traditional Twelve Days of Christmas gifts. We have converted each gift into a related theme common to YA and paired it with a list of relevant titles. You may use the Twelve Days of YA tag to read all of the posts in the series.

Special thanks goes to Carli Spina, Faythe Arredondo, Sharon Rawlins, Geri Diorio, Becky O’Neil, Carla Land, Katie Yu, Laura Perenic, Jennifer Rummel, Libby Gorman, Carly Pansulla, Anna Dalin, and Allison Tran for their help creating the booklists and organizing this series.

On the twelfth day of YA, my true love gave to me twelve drummers drumming.

For our final day of YA we are returning to a musical theme. Day four included a wider variety of music themes, but today we are focused entirely on YA lit that includes musicians. We’ve gone a little bit country and a little bit rock-n-roll, so there should be something in here for everyone. We hope you enjoy the rock stars that we picked and encourage you to share your favorites in the comments!





- Jessica Lind, currently reading The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Monday Poll: The YA Lit Character To Make You Over

Sun, 01/04/2015 - 23:17

Good morning, Hub readers!

Last week, to kick off the new year and new beginnings, we asked you to choose your favorite makeover in YA lit. Your top pick was Hermione in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling, with 38% of the vote, followed by Princess Mia’s makeover in The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot with 28%. Katniss from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins came in a close third with 22% 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!

We’re still thinking about turning over a new leaf in the new year, so let’s take another spin with the makeover theme. Which character from YA lit would you choose to receive a makeover from? Of the following options, some might genuinely want to give out makeovers; others, well…. we just wish they did. Vote in the poll below, or add your choice in the comments!

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

The Eleventh Day of YA

Sun, 01/04/2015 - 07:00

This year on the Hub we are celebrating the Twelve Days of YA with a series of posts loosely based on the traditional Twelve Days of Christmas gifts. We have converted each gift into a related theme common to YA and paired it with a list of relevant titles. You may use the Twelve Days of YA tag to read all of the posts in the series.

Special thanks goes to Carli Spina, Faythe Arredondo, Sharon Rawlins, Geri Diorio, Becky O’Neil, Carla Land, Katie Yu, Laura Perenic, Jennifer Rummel, Libby Gorman, Carly Pansulla, Anna Dalin, and Allison Tran for their help creating the booklists and organizing this series.

On the eleventh day of YA, my true love gave to me eleven pipers piping.

Rather than try to round up a list of YA lit about actual pipers, we decided to expand our theme to cover all stories set in two main homes of bagpipes: Ireland and Scotland. We hope you enjoy the piping good books that we picked and encourage you to share your favorites in the comments!



- Jessica Lind, currently reading Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

YALSA’s 2015 Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge Check-In #4

Sun, 01/04/2015 - 07:00

Not signed up for YALSA’s 2015 Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge? Read the official rules and sign up on the original post. If you’re finished, fill out the form at the bottom of this post to let us know!

Happy New Year!

How many of you lucky souls found time to read–maybe even extra time!–over the holidays?  I emphatically did not, but I snuck in couple chapters here and there and came away with a stack of new books, so I’m calling it a win.  I did read The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton which I found kind of amazing and wonderful.

Luckily, the challenge doesn’t end until 7:45AM Central Time February 2nd (when the Youth Media Awards are announced live at the 2015 ALA Midwinter Meeting in Chicago) so those of us who haven’t started yet still have almost a whole month to tackle either the 2015 finalists for the William C. Morris Award for debut YA authors or the 2015 finalists for YALSA’s Award for Excellence in Nonfiction, or both.  If you got a head start over winter break, I’m jealous.  High five!

Remember, any reading you do as part of this challenge counts towards your total in the Hub Reading Challenge, which starts in February, so crack open a book and get a head start!  We’d love to hear about what you’re reading and hope you’ll leave us a comment below and let us know how the challenge is going so far.  What book has you most excited?  What book are you finding it hard to get your hands on?  (That would be Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero for me–word of mouth on this book is crazy!)  And if you’ve completed the challenge, make sure you fill out the form at the end of this post to let us know and share your favorite title!  As always, if you have any questions or problems, let us know in the comments or via email. And if you want to talk about the challenge on Twitter, use the hashtag #hubchallenge.


– Julie Bartel, currently reading and loving Egg and Spoon by Gregory Maguire and trying to get my hands on Scott McCloud’s The Sculptor before February because I can’t wait that long!


The Tenth Day of YA

Sat, 01/03/2015 - 07:00

This year on the Hub we are celebrating the Twelve Days of YA with a series of posts loosely based on the traditional Twelve Days of Christmas gifts. We have converted each gift into a related theme common to YA and paired it with a list of relevant titles. You may use the Twelve Days of YA tag to read all of the posts in the series.

Special thanks goes to Carli Spina, Faythe Arredondo, Sharon Rawlins, Geri Diorio, Becky O’Neil, Carla Land, Katie Yu, Laura Perenic, Jennifer Rummel, Libby Gorman, Carly Pansulla, Anna Dalin, and Allison Tran for their help creating the booklists and organizing this series.

On the tenth day of YA, my true love gave to me ten lords-a-leaping.

When looking for lords-a-leaping, there was only one place to turn in YA lit – high fantasy. These lords are often doing a lot more than leaping and pretty frequently they are actually ladies out there kicking butt. We hope you enjoy the high fantasy adventures that we picked and encourage you to share your favorites in the comments!




- Jessica Lind, currently reading Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

The Ninth Day of YA

Fri, 01/02/2015 - 07:00

This year on the Hub we are celebrating the Twelve Days of YA with a series of posts loosely based on the traditional Twelve Days of Christmas gifts. We have converted each gift into a related theme common to YA and paired it with a list of relevant titles. You may use the Twelve Days of YA tag to read all of the posts in the series.

Special thanks goes to Carli Spina, Faythe Arredondo, Sharon Rawlins, Geri Diorio, Becky O’Neil, Carla Land, Katie Yu, Laura Perenic, Jennifer Rummel, Libby Gorman, Carly Pansulla, Anna Dalin, and Allison Tran for their help creating the booklists and organizing this series.

On the ninth day of YA, my true love gave to me nine ladies dancing.

No surprise here, day nine of YA is all about dancers. We hope you enjoy the dance-filled stories that we picked and encourage you to share your favorites in the comments!




- Jessica Lind, currently reading As You Wish by Cary Elwes

Get Ready for Season 5 With These Great Books for Downton Abbey Fans

Fri, 01/02/2015 - 07:00

This weekend Season 5 of Downton Abbey will debut in the U.S. and for UK readers, the season has just ended with the annual Christmas special, so hopefully fans everywhere are ready to delve into some new Downton readalikes. Whether you read them throughout the season or save them for the long period between Season 5 and Season 6 (which has already been confirmed!), these books will help you to dive further into the time period and themes of Downton Abbey.

Emeralds and Ashes by Leila Rasheed – Debuting next week, this is the third book in the At Somerton trilogy, which follows those who live at Somerton as World War I breaks out. Lord Averly leaves to fight on the Western front, Rose remains in Egypt, and house staff begin to move out of service and into the military or new types of employment. This final installment promises to wrap up many open plot points and introduce a new era in British history. It is a perfect option for fans of Downton, particularly those who enjoyed the early seasons.

Sally Heathcote: Suffragette by Mary M. Talbot – Written by Mary M. Talbot, an academic who has written only one graphic novel prior to this one, this book follows a fictional young housemaid who is thrown into the suffragette movement in Britain in the early 1900’s. Filled with real historical figures and a fascinating view of a major period in English history, this is a compelling read that will interest those who are curious about what was happening in England during this period beyond the walls of Downton Abbey.

Atonement by Ian McEwan – This modern classic, which was turned into an acclaimed movie several years ago, is set a bit after the period of Downton, but it is also focused on the life of a family at a country estate. Though not specifically marketed as a young adult novel, the story focuses on Briony Tallis, who is 13 years old at the time of a horrible crime on the grounds of the estate. The story is driven by her actions after this event and will keep those who are not familiar with the story guessing.

Shirley by Kaoru MoriLast year, I recommended Mori’s excellent Emma series for Downton fans, and for those who are looking for more of her books, this volume of some of her earlier stories will fit the bill! It follows Shirley, a young maid serving a woman who owns a cafe. The book is a light look at these characters and also offers a peek at the lives of some other servants during the same period.

In The Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters – In this 2014 William C. Morris YA Debut Award finalist, Cat Winters brings alive a unique time period in U.S. history when a brutal flu pandemic intersected with the ravages of World War I. The story follows Mary Shelley Black whose father is imprisoned forcing her to move to California to live with her aunt. Once there, she is thrown into a world of ghosts and spiritualism. This is a wonderful option for Downton fans who want a story of the U.S. during the same time period.

The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming – Last season we heard hints that Russian refugees might become important to the world that Downton inhabits and casting information for this season suggests that this plot line will continue. In preparation, you may want to read this finalist for YALSA’s 2015 Award for Excellence in Nonfiction, which offers background on the Romanov family. The Romanovs were the last royal family of Russia and this book will tell readers about not only their lives, but also the lives of the average Russian at this time and the conditions that led to the Russian Revolution.

Servants: A Downstairs History of Britain from the Nineteenth Century to Modern Times by Lucy Lethbridge – Tracing the role of those who work in service in grand British houses from the nineteenth century to the present, this is the book I plan to read during this season of Downton Abbey. It promises to give readers new insights and a greater understanding of the role that servants have played in maintaining grand estates that were far too large to be run by individuals working alone. The book includes details about the different roles played by each type of servant and the way that these positions changed over the period ranging from World War I to now.

A Year In The Life of Downton Abbey: Seasonal Celebrations, Traditions, and Recipes by Jessica Fellowes – In this new volume from Downton creator Julian Fellowes’ niece, Jessica Fellowes, readers will learn what happens at an estate like Downton in each month of the year. Learn more about the events the family would have attended, from parties to debutante balls to sporting events. The book includes tons of additional information about the series as well, with cast photos, information about costumes, hair and makeup for the series, recipes, and more.

Downton Abbey: Rules For Household Staff by Carson – This book, styled as an introduction to life as a servant at Downton and rules of the house from Carson to new servants, covers the details of rules of how each type of servant at Downton would do their job and interact with one another and members of the family. This is perfect for those who wish the show delved more into the inner workings of the household staff.

If none of these books strike your fancy, check out our previous Downton Abbey posts for some other options. Did we miss any of your favorites? Want to discuss the latest happenings at Downton? Let us know in the comments (but, please keep it spoiler free if you’ve already seen the whole season!).

– Carli Spina, currently reading A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall

Tweets of the Week: January 2

Fri, 01/02/2015 - 07:00

Happy day after New Year’s, Hubbers!  I hope you all are having a wonderful winter season.  I, unfortunately, received a cold as a present this year, but that’s not going to stop me from bringing you all the fun news from Twitter this week (and it’s going to be a lot of best of lists, people)  In case you missed it…I’m here to compile it all for you!

Books & Reading

Movies & Television

Comics & Graphic Novels


-Traci Glass, currently reading Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver