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Updated: 8 hours 14 min ago

Tweets of the Week: December 19th

Fri, 12/19/2014 - 07:00

In case you missed it, check out what happened this week in the Twitterverse.


Movies / TV / Pop Culture


Holiday Gift Guides

Just for Fun

Genre Guide– Spy Fiction

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 07:00

By Employee(s) of Universal Studios (Photograph in possession of SchroCat) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Spy fiction is a sub-genre of mysteries and thrillers. For a novel to be considered spy fiction, some form of espionage must be present in the plot. This can include one person as a spy, or a whole agency of spies.  Spy fiction can be set in the present day, past, and future. When spy fictions are written for teens, the protagonist or protagonists are often inexperienced and considered amateur sleuths.

Authors to Know

Spy fiction must have action and adventure. Though some have it outright, others may have more of a cerebral approach.  The main character or characters have a mission that is given to them at the start of the story.  This can be a mission that they adopt themselves or one that is handed to them by a higher-up.  Oftentimes, spy fiction involves some kind of political entity, either employing the spy or working against them. In spy fiction, good and bad parties are clearly defined.  Most often, we are receiving the story from the good guy’s point of view, and that good guy is the spy.   However, readers must always beware of the double agent!  Unless part of a series, most spy fiction novels end with justice.  However, before justice is carried out the reader is usually led on a series of twists and turns and kept guessing as to if the main character will be victorious in the end.  Spy fictions are usually set in the past, alternate past, or present, and rarely are they set in the future.

The appeal of spy fiction comes from the reader wanting to be  challenged to solve the mystery along with the main character(s).  For spy fiction, the main character(s) are also an appeal factor for readers.  Teens will gravitate to spy fictions if they like a certain main character (usually as part of a series), or a character from history (Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, etc).  The action, adventure, and high emotions of the spy fiction stories also draw readers in, as well as the idea that the main characters can be average teens with above average abilities and reasoning skills.

Spy Fiction has a wide range of readers, depending on the themes of the book.  This genre, however, can attract more guy readers based on the themes and main characters.

One trend for spy fiction is Spy-Fi, or the blending of spy fiction and science fiction.  This is usually most seen in the gadgets that the spy uses while solving the mystery, but can also be seen in the setting.  One of the most successful trends of spy fiction written for teens, however, is the use of historical figures or characters and building a whole new series around them as young people–when they were amateur sleuths.


Reference Books

  • Make Mine a Mystery: A Reader’s Guide to Mystery and Detective Fiction by Gary Warren Niebuhr (Libraries Unlimited, 2003).
  • Mind-Bending Mysteries and Thrillers for Teens: A Programming and Readers’ Advisory Guide by Amy J. Alessio (American Library Association, 2014).

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.

Awards for spy fiction will be included in the umbrella of awards given to 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

— Colleen Seisser, currently reading In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang

Take a Closer Look at Comics

Wed, 12/17/2014 - 07:00

Magnifying Glass by Auntie P. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

This fall I have had an opportunity to delve into comic books and graphic novels in the course of writing my Women in Comics posts here, while taking a Coursera MOOC entitled “Comic Books and Graphic Novels,” and as an attendee at a symposium entitled Comics and the Classroom. Though I have long been a fan of comics and graphic novels, these activities have given me a new appreciation for the depth of comics and the artistry that is on view in some of the best examples of the genre. I have also learned some great strategies for analyzing comics similar to the way that one would analyze other types of literature or art. While some might feel that this takes the fun out of reading them and makes the process too academic, for me, it has opened up meanings that I might have missed, and subtleties that demonstrate the way that comics allow authors and artists to come together to create a complete work that is greater than the sum of its parts.

If this sounds interesting, here are some thoughts and suggestions on getting started doing close readings of comics.

Layout & Design: When analyzing comic books it is important to take the time to consider all of the elements both separately and together. This means looking at the overall layout of the page, whether it is broken into separate “panels” (the term for each box of a comic), the size and shape of each panel, the color and shading choices of the images, the layout and type of text, and the text, to name just a few potential elements. Ask yourself why each decision was made: What does each panel’s size convey? If the style of the lettering changes, what is this meant to say about the tone? All comics exist in the historical framework of those that have come before in the genre, so also consider what the style of art evokes in terms of genre, tone, and period? 

Time: The passage of time is important to any storytelling medium and can be conveyed in comic books in a number of ways. In some books, different time periods are illustrated in different styles or color schemes. Sometimes a frame will include the date either as part of the text or hidden in the art. Alternatively, the style of architecture, clothing, or other well-known elements can give hints about the time period without it ever being mentioned explicitly. Within the story, the passage of time can be seen in changing light patterns, recurring images of a clock, or other background elements in the artwork. When reading a comic book or graphic novel, ask yourself what you can tell about the point in history that is being represented. How you can tell when time has passed?

Motion: Movement and motion are key parts of many comics, particularly those involving fights and superpowers, but also in stories set in the real world. These elements can be conveyed in a variety of different ways. Characters can be in different places in adjacent panels suggesting that movement occurred between panels or lines can be used to suggest motion within a single panel. As you see these different suggestions of motion in comics, ask yourself whether you can tell the speed at which objects or people move or why one style of motion was chosen over another. Does one style create a more realistic world? Does another suggest the presence of the supernatural or the suspension of the laws of physics?

Mood & Emotion: By their nature, comic books have the flexibility to convey mood and emotion through both textual and visual elements. This can be done through shading, colors, shifting perspective, and symbolic elements in the background of scenes. In addition, comic books can include conflicting information with characters saying one thing and the images showing another. As you read, watch for all of these elements and ask yourself, what mood is the author trying to evoke? How does the mood and emotion change throughout the story?

Has this piqued your interest to learn more about analyzing and understanding comic books and graphic novels? If so, I recommend reading more about it. I have barely scratched the surface of this vast topic. There are many options for learning more about analyzing comics, but one popular and impressive choice is Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud. This book, itself a comic, gives a strong introduction to the study of comics and places comic books in a larger historical and artistic context while also helping readers to pull more meaning from these stories. Once you finish this book, there are plenty of other options, including Will Eisner’s books, which are on my own to-be-read list.

Want to try the process out for yourself? Give it a try with your favorite comic books or one of these:

  • Jane, The Fox, and Me by Fanny Britt with illustrations by Isabelle Arsenault – This book offers plenty to consider. To begin, focus on the way that color changes through the book, the differences in shading, and the use of plants in the background throughout.
  • Sumo by Thien Pham – A great book that uses color in very interesting ways and warrants deeper contemplation.
  • Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang (2014 Top 10 GGNT) – Though each of the books in this set is worthy of analysis alone, together they offer a whole new layer of complexity.
  • Through The Woods by Emily Carroll – This collection of short stories combines elements of folk tales and horror with beautiful, rich artwork to create engaging and terrifying stories.

Do you have any favorite comic books or graphic novels that you think are perfect for close reading? Have you analyzed a comic this way for fun or for a class? Do you have thoughts or questions on this process? Let us know in the comments!

Carli Spina, currently reading Starling by Sage Stossel

Jukebooks: All You Are by Elizabeth Karre

Wed, 12/17/2014 - 07:00

Da’Quan figures that if he could be one of the popular kids, he might be able to attract the attention of the lovely Ashantay. Much to his amazement, Da’Quan finds a stranger in his room who offers him the gift of channeling other people. Popular people. This should give him a great shot at Ashantay. But each time he channels someone for their cool trait — such as playing basketball — Da’Quan gets an unwanted trait as well. Somehow, he just can’t get the perfect person to channel. But, as he discovers in the end, he may not really need to.

The song, “Cool Kids,” was a collaborative effort of the siblings that make up the band Echosmith (Jamie, Noah, Sydney and Graham Sierota,) along with Jeffery David and Jesiah Dzwonek. The lyrics are striking in their simplicity and precision:

I wish that I could be like the cool kids
‘Cause all the cool kids, they seem to fit in
I wish that I could be like the cool kids
Like the cool kids

Watching adorable Sydney Sierota sing about wanting to be a cool kid feels a bit Twilight Zonish, but the overall emotion of the music video is joyous acceptance.

-Diane Colson, currently reading Some Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen by Arin Andrews

The Woods Are Just Trees; The Trees Are Just Wood: Counting Down to “Into the Woods”

Tue, 12/16/2014 - 07:00

True confession time: for how many of you is December 25 not just Christmas, but Into the Woods release day?! I’m so excited to see how the new Disney version compares with the old one I watched so many times on video. Before I ever took a literature class or heard the term “fractured fairytale,” I was amazed at this story which used the common theme of venturing “into the woods” to connect so many familiar stories together using a single setting. If you haven’t seen the trailer yet, take a look:

Superfans have probably already heard Anna Kendrick sing Steps of the Palace and seen Johnny Depp’s Wolf interview. With so many actors that teens know and love, and the Disney name to boot, it’s a sure bet that this Sondheim musical is going to pique the curiosity of teen readers. Remember, too, that today’s teens have grown up steeped in middle-grade fairytale mashup worlds. We’ll soon need a meta-Into The Woods just so the characters from The Land of Stories, Sisters Grimm, Ever After High, and Fablehaven can meet up and commiserate about what it’s like to live in all these blended tales. Even the Dork Diaries series got in on the fun with Tales from a Not-So-Happily-Ever-After. And of course, the TV shows Grimm and Once Upon A Time (not to mention the movie version of Shrek) have only fueled the renewed interest in fairy tales.

When we talk about books for Into the Woods fans, we can step through the veritable thicket of retellings and fractured tales and look more carefully for stories that do what Sondheim’s does: make multiple familiar storylines collide. A don’t-miss list for this purpose is Emily Calkins’ February 2013 Hub post The Beanstalk, a Glass Slipper, and a Frog Prince: Fairy Tale Mash-Ups in YA Lit. Alert readers probably know that the Woodcutter Sisters series has continued (Hero, #2; Dearest, #3) and A Tale Dark & Grimm series has finished with, predictably, The Grimm Conclusion. Here are a few additional titles for mashup seekers to add to their lists:

  • Dust City, by Robert Paul Weston. Dust City is a seedy place with a black market of fairydust and a cast of downfallen fairytale characters, including Henry’s father, the Big Bad Wolf.
  • Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty, by Christine Heppermann. These poems place fairytale stories side-by-side with those of contemporary teenage girls, with a message of empowerment.
  • Grim, edited by Christine Johnson. This is an anthology more than a mashup, but these short story retellings by popular YA authors may leave you guessing as to the origin of some of the more obscure tales. If you get stumped, check here.
  • Tender Morsels, by Margo Lanagan. This dark, vivid story for mature readers uses “Snow White and Rose Red” as its base. In looking up info for this post, I actually had to amend my thinking that another Grimm story was referenced (“The Bearskinner”), when, in fact, the bear story is Margo’s own creation. However, I’m leaving this book on the list due to its nuanced fairytale references (for instance, Lanagan has said, “Muddy Annie is a type of witch, a ‘mudwife,’ that I created for a short story based on Hansel and Gretel”). If you’re ready for something hard to forget, try Margo Lanagan.
  • Dread Locks, by Neal Shusterman. Shusterman kicks off his Dark Fusion trilogy with a blend of fairytale and Greek myth — but to say much more would give too much away.
  • Fables, by Bill Willingham (2004 YALSA Quick Picks; 2007 Great Graphic Novels for Teens). In this now-classic graphic novel series, fairytale creatures and characters forced into exile from their native lands live in disguise among regular New Yorkers.

What else should be on the list? What are your favorite mashups? How are you counting down the days until Into the Woods?! Do you think the Disney version will be any good? Waiting is just — sing it with me — “Agonyyyy!”

–Becky O’Neil, currently reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo

Is This Just Fantasy?: It’s A White, White World–And That’s Got To Change.

Mon, 12/15/2014 - 07:00

As a life-long devotee of fantasy fiction, I’ve frequently defended the value of stories that feature dragons, magically gifted heroines, or angst-ridden werewolves.  And while I’ve often stated that fantasy fiction isn’t necessarily an escape from reality simply because it includes magic or ghosts, even the most committed fan must acknowledge that the genre is incredibly disconnected from reality in fatal ways.  For one, fantasy fiction remains an overwhelmingly white world–an area of literature where you might find vampires or psychic detectives but rarely characters of color.

This lack of diversity is a widespread problem in young adult literature and the larger publishing industry but speculative fiction is especially guilty of inequitable representation within its stories and industry.  Just last week, The Guardian published an article by speculative fiction author & essayist Daniel José Older  discussing the insidious ways that systemic racism and white privilege has permeated the science fiction and fantasy publishing & fan communities.  At last month’s YALSA Young Adult Literature Symposium, there was an entire panel titled “Where Are The Heroes of Color in Fantasy & Sci-Fi?”, which Hub blogger Hannah Gómez recapped with great accuracy & insight.

So, how do we, as readers, fans, & promoters of these genres, demand & nurture fiction with imaginary worlds as diverse as the one we live in?  To start, we need to read, buy, promote, and request titles by and about people of color.  Accordingly, I pulled together some authors and titles to check out, focusing on fiction that falls on the fantasy side of speculative fiction.  This list is far from comprehensive; for more titles, I recommend checking out Lee & Low’s genre-specific Pinterest board, Diversity in YA, and We Need Diverse Books.

High Fantasy

2004 Edwards Award winner Ursula K. Le Guin has long been considered one of the best and most beloved high fantasy writers; she’s also consistently written stories with people of color as protagonists–although film adaptions & book covers have often blatantly ignored this, white-washing characters like Ged, the brown-skinned protagonist of A Wizard of Earthsea.  The 2013 Edwards Award winner Tamora Pierce also includes characters of color in her novels; her Emelan books feature both black & multiracial protagonists.

Fans of thrilling adventures & complex heroines should try novels by Cindy Pon, Ellen Oh, or Malinda Lo for rich high fantasy tales rooted in a variety of East Asian cultures.  Cindy Pon’s lush & exciting Silver Phoenix and its sequel, The Fury of the Phoenix follow young Ai Ling as she discovers her unique abilities and battles an ancient evil based in the royal palace. Ellen Oh’s Dragon King Chronicles (beginning with Prophecy) also focuses on a powerful young woman struggling to embrace her destiny–the yellow-eyed demon slayer Kira who might be the key to saving the Seven Kingdoms from destruction.  Malinda Lo’s Ash (2010 Morris Award finalist, 2014 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults and Huntress (2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2012 Rainbow List, 2012 Amelia Bloomer List) are richly imagined, romantic novels I recommend to all fantasy readers!

Nigerian-American novelist Nnedi Okorafor is a prolific creator of African-based speculative fiction for adults, teens, and children.  Readers eager for highly original fantasy fiction should look no further than her novels Zahrah the Windseeker and Akata Witch (2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults), coming of age stories infused with West African cultures & traditions and featuring young black heroines.

Corinne Duyvis‘ Otherbound burst onto the scene this summer, offering an inventive and refreshingly diverse epic fantasy adventure.  When Nolan closes his eyes, he’s transported away from his small Arizona town and into the body of Amara, a mute servant on the run with a cursed princess in another world.  When he’s finally able to communicate as well as observe in Amara’s world, everything changes. The leads are both physically disabled people of color and the supporting cast is equally diverse.

The Young Elites by Marie Lu, Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst, Sorrow’s Knot by Erin Bow, and City  of A Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster are all set in multicultural fantasy worlds & feature characters of color.

‘Low’ Fantasy: Urban, Paranormal, & Historical Fantasy

For fantasy set in our world (rather than set primarily in a secondary, invented world), there are also increasingly diverse stories and characters available.  Cynthia Leitich Smith, a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation and excellent blogger on all things YA, writes delightful paranormal fantasy with distinctly Southwestern flavor and consistently diverse casts of characters.  Her Tantalize (2011 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults) and Feral series are perfect for fans of witty supernatural tales looking for a unique take on vampires, were-creatures, and angels.

For another fresh vision of werewolf mythology, check out Joseph Bruchac’s Wolf Mark, an action-packed adventure following Luke King’s journey as he attempts to unravel the truth behind his black ops infiltrator father’s disappearance and his own strange abilities. Like the author, Luke is Abenaki Indian.

Separately, both Sarah Rees Brennan and Justine Larbalestier have written a variety of fantasy novels and both consistently include people of color as protagonists and secondary characters. Their co-written novel Team Human (2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults) features a bitingly sarcastic Asian American narrator and clever send-up & ultimately thoughtful subversion of vampire romance tropes.

Amalie Howard’s Alpha Goddess follows a teenager who discovers that she is a reincarantion of Lakshmi, the human avatar of an immortal Hindu goddess while Guadalupe Garcia McCall reimagines The Odyssey through a Mexican American lens in The Summer of the Mariposas (2013 Amelia Bloomer List).

Karen Healey‘s urban/paranormal fantasies Guardian of the Dead (2011 Morris Award finalist, 2011 Best Fiction for Young Adults) and The Shattering are set in contemporary New Zealand and accordingly reflect the country’s racial and ethnic diversity in their characters.

For fantasy with a historical twist, readers looking for novels featuring characters of color should investigate Sarah Zettel‘s American Fairy trilogyHammer of Witches by Shana Mlawski, and The Diviners by Libba Bray (2013 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults).

Finally, fantasy fans of all kinds should check out the new anthology, Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories, co-edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios. 

Please share more fantasy novels featuring characters of color in the comments!

-Kelly Dickinson, currently reading The Iron Trial by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare

The Monday Poll

Sun, 12/14/2014 - 23:35

Good morning, Hub readers!

Last week, we asked you to choose your favorite wintery YA read. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater took the top spot with 47% of the vote, followed by Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett, with 29%. You can see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive. Thanks to all of you who voted!

As we head into the last few weeks of the year, we’re pondering what YA literature trends we’ll see in 2015. We here at The Hub have a few ideas, but we want to know what you think! What trends do you think will hit the big time in YA lit next year? Vote in the poll below, and please elaborate or add alternative choices 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 #1

Sun, 12/14/2014 - 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!


Are you busy with holidays or end-of-the-year activities? It can be an intense time of year, and you may be debating about jumping into the Hub’s Morris/Nonfiction reading challenge but I am here to encourage you to DO IT!

There are two very good reasons to take part by reading as many of the 2015 finalists for the William C. Morris Award for debut YA authors, and/or the 2015 finalists for YALSA’s Award for Excellence in Nonfiction, or both between now and the Youth Media Awards on February 2:

  1. You will have a head start on the Hub Reading Challenge that starts in February and that includes PRIZES!
  2. By reading some great, informative nonfiction, and some books by hot, new authors, you will become the smartest person in the room at any holiday party you attend.

Now get started! Or, if you have miraculously already completed the challenge, won’t you please fill out the form at the bottom of this post so we can all be amazed by you?

The rest of us will leave comments talking about which titles we are most looking forward to reading. I’ll start – for the Morris, I’m excited to read Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero, and Laughing at My Nightmare by Shane Burcaw is the Nonfiction title I am most curious about. You?

~ Geri Diorio, currently reading The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith


Tweets of the Week: December 12th

Fri, 12/12/2014 - 07:00

This was an exciting news in the YA lit world, with news that Rainbow Rowell is writing a book set in Fangirl‘s Simon Snow universe and Malinda Lo’s annual analysis of the LGBTQ titles published during the year. Enjoy!


Movies and TV



Holiday Gift Guides

— Molly Wetta, currently reading Blood of My Blood by Barry Lyga

Notes from a Teens’ Top Ten Book Group Participant: 6 Books Every Teen Girl Should Read

Thu, 12/11/2014 - 07:00

Teens across the nation voted for the 2014 Teens’ Top Ten list, and the winners have been announced- but did you know how the books are nominated for this list in the first place?

Books are nominated by members of Teens’ Top Ten book groups in school and public libraries around the country. To give you a glimpse of what it’s like to be part of the process, we’re featuring posts from these teens here on The Hub. Today we have book recommendations from Kitra Katz of the Teens Know Best book group in St. Paul, Minnesota. To read more reviews by Kitra and the members of this group, visit the TKB Blog.

As a girl who has soaked in hundreds of books throughout her teenage years, I have found myself sighing at scores of disappointments. My peculiar taste for characters who make me proud to be a young woman and teach me lessons I need to wrap my head around before my last year of legal childhood comes to a halt often makes finding literary role models difficult. Very, very difficult.

I don’t want to jump into the world of a girl who spends more time moping over a boy than building her own story (though sometimes a fun, girly read can be good). Instead, I want a girl who is her own hero, or even the hero of others. A girl who can whip out a sword or witty word faster than she can say, “Maybelline or Covergirl?” A girl who is strong in times of trouble.

Sadly, this girl doesn’t seem to be terribly common in the literary world. So to help all those young women like me out there, I’ve created a checklist of six books every teenage girl needs to read.

1. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (a 2012 Morris Award finalist)

In this tear-jerking piece of fiction, we meet Lina, a fifteen-year-old who faces the most difficult years of her life when her whole family is arrested and sent to various Soviet-run prison camps.

2. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Told as a “memoir-in-comic-strips,” Persepolis is the story of Marjane growing up in the capital of Iran during the Islamic Revolution. Fascinating and eye-opening.

3. The Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce

To be honest, you could read any story by Tamora Pierce and I would rejoice. Her myriad books center around strong, fierce, hardcore, stereotype-defying women. Pure excellence.

4. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

This one is a shocker, I know. Fickle, stupid teenagers who are infatuated–not in love. I mean, how could Juliet be so stupid as to kill herself over a boy she’s known less than a week? Well, I think we all need a reminder that something as small as a boy you met when you were thirteen isn’t life or death.

Sometimes that’s best learned by shaking our heads at someone else.

5. I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb

Though I’m sure you already know about her through the (well deserved) media hype she’s received, Malala is an excellent role model who can show us we’re never too young to make a difference.

6. Princesses Behaving Badly by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie

A magnificent nonfiction collection of real princesses throughout history who did crazy, odd, brave, or even dangerous things. What’s better than girls and women who change up the old fairytale archetype?

Diverse Books, Diverse Families

Thu, 12/11/2014 - 07:00

Image courtesy of Flickr user theirhistory

As the holiday season enters into full-swing and all my friends are discussing vacation plans with their families far and wide, I got to thinking about the ways in which families are depicted in YA literature. In particular, the surprising lack of diversity in how family units are portrayed as a general rule. More often that not, YA main characters come from “traditional” heterosexual nuclear families with birth parents who are not divorced. That said, as families across the nation become increasingly more diverse on all sorts of levels, so too are fictional families in YA and adult literature. In honor, then, of diverse families, both the ones we are born into and the ones we find, I’ve rounded up a wide array of titles celebrating the love we give and receive from the most important people in our lives.

Counting by 7s

Holly Goldberg Sloan’s book Counting by 7s is a favorite at my school with both students and teachers alike. It centers on the life of the endearingly quirky 12-year-old genius Willow Chance, the adopted multiracial daughter of loving white parents. When her adoptive parents tragically die in a car crash, Willow finds herself taken in by her Vietnamese friends and their single mom. What I really appreciated about this book is that it emphasizes that family, although always imperfect, is something that can be created and that is ultimately transformative. Featuring a truly unusual and unique set of misfit characters, this is an uplifting book that reads something like a fable or fairy tale come true.

Kate Milford is one of YA’s most underappreciated writers despite a proven track record of extraordinarily deft and delightful novels. Her most recent book, Greenglass House, continues her winning streak and tells the tale of 12-year-old Milo, the adopted son of loving parents who own the smugglers’ inn, the Greenglass House. The story is essentially a mystery that involves a number of odd and unlikely guests, a possible ghost story, and the house itself. At heart though, it is also a story about family and identity. Milo is Chinese with Caucasian parents and he grapples with what that means for him and his sense of self and belonging. Milford addresses these issues with compassion and sensitivity while never losing sense of the larger plot and her intended audience.

Mirka, the heroine of Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword by Barry Deustch (2011 Great Graphic Novels for Teens), is a feisty 11-year-old Orthodox Jewish girl who ardently wants to fight dragons. In her quest to find a dragon, she encounters instead a talking pig, a curmudgeonly witch, and a tricky troll. The story itself is delightful and incorporates Orthodox Jewish culture seamlessly within its narrative. What’s more, it features a remarkably intelligent, caring, and strict stepmother who provides both needed boundaries and loving support.  The inclusion of scenes depicting Mirka’s deceased mother makes the stepparent relationship all the more poignant and heartwarming.

Another hugely popular book amongst my students, Stephanie Perkins’ charming Lola and the Boy Next Door (2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults) provides us with another utterly endearing romance as a follow-up to Anna and the French Kiss. Like the latter, the book is a tribute to missed chances, smoldering crushes, and love at long last. Lola is an aspiring costume designer with a hot boyfriend who finds herself emotionally torn by the reappearance of her former best friend and love interest, Cricket, the titular boy next door. Perkins is adept at crafting quirky, yet believable, characters who manage to capture your heart; including two protective, supportive, and equally engaging gay dads who provide more depth and nuance to the larger plot. Although primarily a romance, the book is also a study in the complexity of relationships of all kinds, from friendship to family to first loves.

How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr (2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults) is the unusual story of two teenage girls, Jill and Mandy, who find themselves living under the same roof when Jill’s mother decides to openly adopt Mandy’s unborn child after her husband dies. Told in alternating points of view, Zarr captures both characters and their often conflicting, raw, and unfiltered emotions beautifully. The unique premise for the novel and the ensuing complications are handled expertly by the always masterful Zarr who approaches her characters, neither one entirely likable, with a keen empathy. In the end, the novel is about finding one’s way through grief and hardship to a place where love, acceptance, and, yes, family can be found.

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson (2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults) is that rare gem of a novel where craft combines with content to create an immersive reading experience. A retelling of Peter Pan, the story is narrated by Tinkerbell (called Tink in the book) as she observes the falling in and out of love of Tiger Lily and Peter Pan. Heart-breaking and unique in its tone and presentation, this is a must read for anyone interested in exploring diversity from a very different perspective. The novel delves into racism, colonialism, religion, and gender variance with surprising grace and insight. The relationship between Tiger Lily and the shaman, Tik Tok, who found and raised her is particularly moving in its portrayal of two outsiders who find family within each other.

As I think about my own non-traditional family, I am heartened by the increasing prevalence of YA novels that understand that loving families are necessarily all unique in their construct and composition but similar in their shared sense of responsibility, belonging, and care. Let me know of other favorite diverse families books to celebrate and share!

~Alegria Barclay, currently reading A Thousand Pieces of You

Jukebooks: On a Clear Day by Walter Dean Myers

Wed, 12/10/2014 - 07:00

In the year 2035, the division between rich and poor has grown so severe that a group of gifted young people decide it’s worth their lives to try and bridge the gap. But will courage and intelligence be enough to combat mega-corporations and drug lords? In his final novel, Myers nudges readers to think about what is worth living – and dying – for.

The song that share its name with this book comes from a Broadway musical, On A Clear Day You Can See Forever, (music by Burton Lane/lyrics by Alan Jay), which was adapted into a movie in 1970. The movie’s plot is far from the inspirational, change-the-world story line of Myer’s novel. Barbra Streisand plays Daisy, who goes to a hypnotist, Marc Chabot, to help her quit smoking. Turns out, a different personality emerges during hypnosis, the seductive Melinda. As Daisy falls in love with Marc, Marc falls in love with Melinda. The resolution to all this is just bizarre. Daisy, who is clairvoyant, informs Marc that they will be together in 2038, which is just three years after Myers’ book begins.

Speaking of bizarre, take a look at the movie poster on left. Very psychedelic!

But the song, On a Clear Day (You Can See Forever) is beautiful, and Streisand knocks it out of the park.


-Diane Colson, currently reading an advance readers copy of I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

Notes from a Teens’ Top Ten Book Group Participant: Book Trailers!

Wed, 12/10/2014 - 07:00

Teens across the nation voted for the 2014 Teens’ Top Ten list, and the winners have been announced- but did you know how the books are nominated for this list in the first place?

Books are nominated by members of Teens’ Top Ten book groups in school and public libraries around the country. To give you a glimpse of what it’s like to be part of the process, we’re featuring posts from these teens here on The Hub.

Today we we have a couple of book trailers created by Victoria Lorino, a member of the Mount Carmel Academy Book Club in New Orleans, Louisiana. These trailers show that Teens’ Top Ten book club members are creative in addition to being avid readers! 

Book trailer for Fire & Flood by Victoria Scott:

Book trailer for Cut Me Free by J.R. Johansson:

Series Binge-Reading: The Perfect Activity for a Wintery Afternoon

Wed, 12/10/2014 - 07:00

Photo by flickr user Robert

Ah, winter! Perfect for marathon reading sessions indoors, bundled against the blustery elements. Whether you have several whole weeks out of classes, or just a few extra days here and there to fit in some seasonal festivities and max out your relaxation, there’s nothing like a winter’s day off for disappearing into another world for the entirety of a story’s arc, however many volumes it takes.

There are lots of definitions floating around for “binge reading.” Some indicate that it’s about cramming to meet a reading deadline, or skimming as much and as fast as possible. Others look to the new(ish) tradition of binge-watching TV series in marathon installments to describe a similar commitment to reading in large doses, especially within the same series. It’s this last definition that really appeals to me: binge-reading as an intensive, immersive experience for hours and hours (or even days and days) on end. Series titles lend themselves admirably to this sort of extended reading escape. Binging on a series lets you completely submerge yourself in another world, spend inordinate amounts of time with your favorite (and most loathed!) characters, and learn how it all turns out in one fell swoop, all without interrupting the momentum of the plot, or muddying the motives of the characters in your mind with too long a pause between volumes.

So, to help you strategize your total reading immersion during this binge-reading (ahem, I mean holiday) season, here is a list of series worth disappearing into. To help prevent the dreaded, stomach-sinking realization that there are at least ten months between you and finding out what’s happened to your new favorite characters in the next book, every series on the list has every planned volume published. With one notable exception, because I just couldn’t help myself.

Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness (The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer, and Monsters of Men)

The first book in this pulse-pounding series (The Knife of Never Letting Go, a 2009 Best Books for Young Adults pick) launches readers into a world where the thoughts of all boys and men are audible to everyone around them; and all the girls and women have disappeared. The plot careens around with young Todd, our confused but generally well-meaning protagonist, and then pulls up at the edge of a serious cliffhanger of an ending; for your binge-reading enjoyment, make sure you have the next volume (The Ask and the Answer) lined up to keep going without pause! For readers who like their binge in auditory formats, The Knife of Never Letting Go was also a 2011 Odyssey Honor book.

Graceling Realm series by Kristin Cashore (Graceling, Fire, and Bitterblue)

If you love two powerful characters sparring – with both dialogue and physical blows – then there are scenes in the first book of Cashore’s wonderful fantasy series (Graceling, a 2009 Morris Honor book, a 2009 Best Books for Young Adults book, and a 2009 Teens’ Top Ten pick) that you will want to read again and again. Or perhaps your favorite fantasy convention is a solid quest through difficult terrain? The Graceling Realm has you covered there too. Palace intrigue? Check. Complex characters grappling with issues of identity, morality, and fraught relationships? Yep. The second book in the series, Fire, was a 2010 Best Books for Young Adults book, and a 2010 Teens’ Top Ten pick as well. If you hit the end of the series shaking your first because Cashore doesn’t have any more books out for you to read right now, then make sure you’ve read…

The Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce (Alanna: The First Adventure, In the Hand of the Goddess, The Woman Who Rides Like a Man, and Lioness Rampant)

Pierce was recognized for the “significant and lasting contribution” this series (and the also-excellent Protector of the Small quartet) has made to YA literature with the 2013 Margaret A. Edwards Award; these books are essential YA fantasy reading. Originally published in the 1980s, Alanna’s determination to train for combat while keeping her gender secret rings as true today as it did 20 years ago. And she’s stubborn as anything, which makes for entertaining (and sometimes frustrating!) reading.

Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta (Finnikin of the Rock, Froi of the Exiles, and Quintana of Charyn)

Attention, readers who love some serious angst in the relationships between characters, crazy-high stakes for everyone with pretty much every turn of the plot, and decades of tension, strife, and prophecy contributing to all interactions; Marchetta’s high-drama fantasy is for you! A web of conflicting motives, buried secrets, and deep wounds drives a sprawling cast of characters from a war-torn land through each volume, with generous doses of love, loss, betrayal, desire, and revenge to keep the pages turning. The first in the series, Finnikin of the Rock, was a 2011 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults book, and the audiobook production was also a 2011 Top Ten Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults pick.

 Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld (Leviathan, Behemoth, and Goliath)

Revisionist WWI history with a firmly steampunk approach, peppered with intricate, captivating illustrations to delight your imagination? Yes, please! An awesome pick for binge-reading for folks who love to get lost in the charm of incredible world-building, the Leviathan series offers page after page of delightful new creatures and contraptions, all anchored by an adventure-driven plot. Another series with an audio edge; all three audiobooks are narrated by the stellar Alan Cumming (accents! score!), and the first volume of the series, Leviathan, was honored as a 2011 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults pick, a 2011 Top Ten Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults pick, and a 2010 Best Books for Young Adults book.

 The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater (The Raven Boys, The Dream Thieves, Blue Lily, Lily Blue, and an as-yet unnamed fourth volume still to be released)

This is where I break my own rule of only pointing you towards series you could actually read all of at your next binge-reading session. The fourth and final volume of this contemporary fantasy series, set in the (mostly) recognizable southern US, is not yet published, but I couldn’t bring myself to leave The Raven Cycle out, even though everyone will have to wait (and wait. and wait!) with me for closure. If you haven’t read any of them yet, three volumes is definitely enough to a) get you completely hooked, and b) disappear for a satisfying chunk of time into rural Henrietta, where Blue Sargent (reluctantly) befriends Gansey, Adam, Ronan, and Noah from the local prep school. Blue comes from a family of psychics, and she already carries a burden of difficult – secret- knowledge concerning one of the boys. This is character-driven storytelling with elements of fantasy woven seamlessly into the whole, and it holds up to repeat visits (a stellar trait in a binge-read if ever there was one!). The Raven Boys was a 2013 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults book and a 2013 Teens’ Top Ten pick.

Of course this list is only the tip of the serial iceberg, but I hope you enjoy contemplating a binge-reading session as the temperatures drop and the holidays approach; please share your favorite series to binge-read in the comments!

-Carly Pansulla, currently reading The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim by E. K. Johnston