The Hub

Subscribe to The Hub feed
Your Connection to Teen Reads
Updated: 10 hours 14 min ago

Realistically Speaking! Some New Realistic YA Fiction for Your Fall Reading

Wed, 10/29/2014 - 07:00

Well, I never thought I’d say this (and I will only admit this to you, Hubbers), but I’m a little burned out on comics right now.  What?!  I know, right?!  Don’t get me wrong, I still love comics, but as the old saying goes too much of a good thing is too much (that is the saying, right?).  So, anyways, I have just been reading so many fiction and nonfiction comics lately that one day a few weeks ago, I put down my copy of Batman: Zero Year/Secret City (and, don’t worry, Batman, you didn’t turn me off of comics – you’re perfect just the way you are) and picked up some of the galleys I had brought home from ALA in June.  I just wanted something a little different than my usual to curl up with on these cold October nights (the best month of the year, if you ask me!).

Luckily for me, and you, dear readers, there is some unbelievably great realistic teen fiction that has been or will be released that book lovers will absolutely swoon over. From feminism to a 1990s semi-love story to a gerbil named Baconnaise and more interrobangs than you can handle (more on that in a sec!), if you like stories of teens being teens, make sure to check out all of these fun and fantastic reads for the fall. Now normally, you know we always start with Batman, but this time, let’s start with Baconnaise!

The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer:  You guys.  So, for most of the time I’ve been a Teen Librarian, I’ve had one and only one favorite teen book.  Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King has always had my heart – no runners up; no top five list.  But, now, there is a serious contender for #1 teen book in my heart, and it’s this new one by first time author, Kate Hattemer.  TVPoSA (I wanted to abbreviate the title, so this is it!) tells the story of Ethan and his group of friends who attend Selwyn Academy, a performing arts school in Minnesota.  Much to the chagrin of Ethan and his friends – Luke, Jackson & Elizabeth – their school is now the filming location of the very popular reality show, For Art’s Sake, a show that has Selwyn Academy students competing against each other using their artistic craft to receive money and scholarships.  It’s sleazy and sensationalistic and Ethan’s group hates it so much that the four of them start writing long form protest poems after reading about how Ezra Pound employed the same tactic. But, the problem is– when the producers of For Art’s Sake get ahold of the Contracantos (their super cool name for their poems which they print out and distribute all around the school), they love them and promptly ask Luke to be on the show.  And, the (second) problem is that Luke does it, and he loves it.  Now Ethan is feeling betrayed and is determined to make Luke and the school sorry they ever let this sham of a show film at their school.  The threesome just know that the administration is up to something nefarious and suspicious regarding Selwyn’s involvement with For Art’s Sake, and they won’t stop until they expose everyone and all their lies, even if they discover it might just involve their very favorite teacher in the world.  Plus! There’s a gerbil named Baconnaise that definitely steals the spotlight and just might be their secret weapon in the end.  This book is hilarious and you should read it now, and it introduced me to my new favorite punctuation- move over, semi-colon, there’s a new favorite in town: the interrobang.  Seriously.  Read it now.  I’ll wait.

Sway by Kat Spears:  When I was first sent this book by School Library Journal to review, I took one look at the back cover where the book is described as a “Cyrano de Bergerac for the twenty-first century” and promptly set it right back down on my desk.  The weird thing is, when I was at ALA, someone or something snuck this book into my tote bag sometime during the conference.  I took that as a sign that I should probably read this book since it had managed to work its way into my life and onto my desk twice.  Guess what I discovered!  I discovered that I absolutely love this book.  Jesse Alderman, otherwise known as Sway (much to his chagrin), can get you what you want, no matter what. Drugs, popularity, money, anything– but it’ll come with a cost… maybe it’s your cash or maybe it’s your secrets.  So, when the jerkiest, most popular boy in school, Ken Foster, wants Jesse to get super nice girl, Bridget Smalley to like him, Jesse takes his cash and takes the job.  But, the problem is– (Oh, I’m sensing a pattern here) that once Jesse gets to know Bridget, he doesn’t want to let her go to Ken.  He falls for her hard despite all his best efforts not to.  Bridget just makes him a better person which he isn’t sure he is or deserves to be.  Once you get to know Jesse, you won’t want to leave him behind – and trust me, he makes it hard to root for him.  But, he’s such a well written character and the story is so great, touching on parental death and abandonment, disabilities and coming to terms with yourself, that readers will be sad when the story comes to an end.  Plus, it’s funny!

The Perfectionists by Sara Shepard:  So, maybe you want a little murder, a little mystery to liven up all these cold and dark nights.  Well, Sara Shepard, author of the Pretty Little Liars and The Lying Game series, has cooked up another dark and twisted mystery.  Five high school girls in Washington who aren’t really friends discover they all have one thing in common: they all straight-up hate Nolan, a horrible, super popular jerk (way worse than Ken Foster, by the way) at their school who has the dibs on all of their secrets.  After talking in class and thinking about how funny it would be to just murder him, they come to the conclusion that a.) that idea is not plausible or moral or doable, so they decide to just humiliate him.  They give him something at a party to knock him out long enough to write all over his face exactly what they think of him. But, the problem is– (It is a pattern!) that Nolan does indeed end up dead… exactly the way they had all talked about in class, but it wasn’t them.  Now, someone knows their secret and is trying to frame them for Nolan’s murder.  They all have things to lose, so they have to act fast to figure out who killed Nolan, but, the (second) problem is: the killer seems determined to keep them quiet at all costs.  A fun and fast mystery that Sara is saying will only be a 2-book series, so perfect for readers who like murder mysteries, but don’t want to read a 14 book series about it.  Spooky and scary and perfect for dark nights.

Althea & Oliver by Cristina Moracho:  I was first attracted to this book because the protagonists aren’t that much younger than me; this book is set in the mid-90s, and will definitely appeal to lovers of 2014 Printz Honor bookEleanor & Park.  Anyways, Althea & Oliver have been neighbors and best friends practically forever.  But, the problem is– (I bet I can get this statement in every review in this post- keep reading to find out!) Althea loves Oliver – like loves him loves him, and he’s just not sure he wants to be more than friends.  The (second) problem is– Oliver has some kind of sleeping disorder that causes him to sleep for days, weeks, months at a time.  No one can figure out what’s wrong with him or how to successfully treat him so that he’s not spending half of his life in bed.  That’s when Nicky, Oliver’s mom, sees a report on the news about a doctor who’s studying Kleine-Levin Syndrome and sees similarities between how they’re describing it and what Oliver experiences.  But, then things turn sour between Oliver & Althea when she takes things too far with him one night and Oliver decides to just up and leave to go to the treatment facility where the doctor is doing a clinical study of the disease.  He doesn’t tell Althea.  She’s devastated and will stop at nothing to find him.  What she does find out leads her to New York City and it’s there that she realizes that her life might be more than just Oliver and North Carolina.  She discovers that the world is vast and her life is only just beginning.  A great book that’s melancholy, funny, and heartbreaking in all the right ways.

Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King:  Welp.  Every year, A.S. King writes a book, and I love it – no ifs, ands or buts about it.  Glory O’Brien is no different. It’s a book that’s still resonating with me, and it’ rivaling Vera Dietz along with TVPoSA as my #1 favorite teen book.  You should take my advice and read it, but here’s a brief synopsis in case you need convincing. So, Glory’s mom killed herself, Sylvia Plath style, when Glory was just a kid, and now Glory’s worried she’ll turn out the same way.  She has no plans for after high school, and she just generally feels lost and adrift in the sea of life. One night, just on a whim, Glory and Ellie (the closest thing Glory has to a friend) find a mummified bat.  They put it in a jar, put beer in the jar and drink the bat.  Then, Glory starts seeing visions: a person’s infinite past and future.  But, the problem is– (I did it!) as Glory starts seeing more and more of the future, she realizes that things aren’t looking so hot for women in the upcoming years. Their rights disappear, a new terrifying leader splits the country and there’s a second civil war where women are the pawns and the victims.  Glory is a Feminist with a capital F… she’s not afraid to say it or show it, and she’s going to try to figure out everything she can so she can try and stop what seems to be inevitable for the human race.  But, what about her?  She can’t see a future for herself.  So what, she thinks.  That’s not going to stop her from trying to keep a future for everyone else.  Awesome. Thought provoking.  Touching.  Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.  Just read it – you’ll be glad you did.

Well, that’s it!  I guess I should have titled my post “But, the Problem Is” since everyone seems to have at least one in all these books! You’ve got a lot to choose from here: funny to serious to demented to mystery to mummified bat, Baconnaise & interrobangs, but I seriously hope you just decide to snuggle up under your blanket with a hot apple cider or hot chocolate and read all of them in one fell swoop!  As for me, I found one more ARC from ALA that was hiding at the bottom of my bookshelf at home; hopefully, I’ll enjoy it as much as I enjoyed these gems!  Join me next month for more problems (hopefully not!)! Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel!

-Traci Glass, currently reading There Will be Lies by Nick Lake

The Best Books for Non-Readers

Wed, 10/29/2014 - 07:00

October is an exciting month for any YA lit fan, because it includes Teen Read Week! In honor of this annual celebration of young adult literature, YALSA invited book-loving teens all over the world to apply to share their enthusiasm for reading in a guest post for The Hub. Thirty-one talented young writers were chosen, and we’ll be featuring posts from these unique voices all month long. Here’s Lana Gorlinski.

As hard as it is for a bookworm like myself to fathom, many teenagers simply don’t like to read. I know many of the type, and they have a variety of reasons for not enjoying books–they’d rather watch the movie, they find it tedious and can’t sit still for that long, they’d simply rather do other things with their time. Yet I’ve found that most people who “don’t like reading” actually just don’t like the books they’ve read. Indeed, if all I had read growing up were the asinine required reading pieces I was presented with, I too may have learned to loathe the activity. But I’m of the opinion that one can’t hate the act of reading itself, because it’s not a hobby so much as it is a medium for absorbing information of all kinds; saying one hates reading as a whole is just as ludicrous as saying one hates all of music, television, or the internet. Because just as there’s a music or movie genre for every taste, so too exists a near-infinite number of book genres to suit even the most finicky of readers. Below, I’ve listed a variety of books that even the most adamant non-readers should enjoy:

If you can’t put down the video games: Try an action-packed science fiction novel, like Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card! Set in a distant-future Earth, young Ender Wiggins finds himself selected for training in zero gravity to learn how to fight against the alien Buggers that are attacking the earth. Besides the usual awesomeness that comes with aliens and outer space, this quick-paced read is also chock full of action and interesting military strategy at every turn of the page.
What next: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

If you’re obsessed with rom-coms: Get all of that sappy feel-goodiness in a quirky romance novel! John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars is super-popular for a reason: it’s beautifully written and completely heart-wrenching! You’ll find yourself unable to put this book down, as John Green has a way of pulling you in and keeping you reading hours after you declared lights out. It’s a book about two teens with cancer, yes, but it’s about so much more, including love, death, and life itself, and as you follow the adventures of Hazel Grace Lancaster you’ll find yourself laughing at some parts and sobbing like an idiot at others, a winning combo.
What next: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

If you’re constantly watching sitcom reruns: There are plenty of light, funny novels to tickle your funnybone. One of the funniest books I’ve read is Douglas Adams’ A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Adams’ brilliant, quick-witted narration will keep you enthralled and laughing all the way as the hilariously hapless Arthur Dent journeys through the universe, eventually discovering the meaning of life (which is certainly not what you’d expect it to be). What this book lacks in plot, character development and all those pesky things your English teacher likes to remind you of, it makes up for in page upon page of gut-splitting laughs.
What next: The Princess Bride by William Goldman

If you spend your weekends at the movie theater: Reading the book before you see the movie will really bring the movie to life! The Giver, by Lois Lowry, is an amazing book that happens to also be playing in theaters. A piece of dystopian fiction written before dystopian fiction was cool, this book presents a strange futuristic society in which people have been deprived of all individuality. The book follows 12-year-old Jonas as he navigates this society, creating a thought-provoking read that you’ll find yourself eagerly finishing in one life-changing sitting.
What next: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

If your English teacher is forcing you to read a “classic” book: Do not despair! Though many old books do have their fair share of archaic language that only the most literarily inclined can decipher, there’s plenty of more recent (read: more interesting) books that many English teachers still consider as having “literary merit.” One of my personal favorites is George Orwell’s 1984. Set in an alternate 1984 wrought with constant warfare and a totalitarian government, this novel features Winston Smith as he navigates working for the ironically-named Ministry of Truth while dreaming of rebellion. Written in the modern English that should be intelligible to almost all teenagers, this book should keep you turning the pages in suspense. At the very least, it will certainly make you think.
What next: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

~ Lana Gorlinski adores reading, writer, and spending far too much time playing water polo. She’s currently reading On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit – Quite Possibly the Best Kick Ass Book Ever

Tue, 10/28/2014 - 07:00

October is an exciting month for any YA lit fan, because it includes Teen Read Week! In honor of this annual celebration of young adult literature, YALSA invited book-loving teens all over the world to apply to share their enthusiasm for reading in a guest post for The Hub. Thirty-one talented young writers were chosen, and we’ll be featuring posts from these unique voices all month long. Today, we have a video post from Raelyn Browning.

- Raelyn Browning: Hi all! My name is Raelyn Browning, a teen with an addiction to red lipstick, good books, and caramel coffee. Thanks for listening to me blather on about reading- see you someday!

Celebrate the Day of the Dead with These YA Novels

Tue, 10/28/2014 - 07:00

Image by violetdragonfly

In just a few days, The Day of the Dead (El Día de los Muertos) will be celebrated in Mexico, other Latin American countries and a large number of U.S. cities.  Celebration dates vary from October 31st through November 2nd. On the Day of the Dead, people remember and pray for family members and friends who have passed.  To celebrate the dearly departed, it is common to visit their graves and to create altars which often include marigolds, photos of the deceased and items that were important to them in life.

Communities, libraries and schools all over are currently making final preparations for their own Day of the Dead celebrations.  I’ve attended the Santa Ana, California celebration several times, and am always amazed by the range of altars that families and local organizations create in honor of loved ones and various causes.  The festivities also include Mexican folk music, face painting, sweet bread (pan de muerto) and Mexican hot chocolate.  If you live near a Day of the Dead celebration yourself, I strongly encourage you to check it out.

You can also see The Book of Life, a beautifully crafted new animated film in current release which includes a Day of the Dead celebration.  And of course you can always celebrate by reading one or more of the following YA novels (and one adult graphic novel) in which the Day of the Dead plays a role!

In The Tequila Worm (2006 Pura Belpré Award winner), Viola Canales writes a semi-autobiographical story about Sofia, a Mexican-American teen who has grown up in a Latino neighborhood in South Texas.  Her excellent work in school earns her a scholarship to attend a prestigious and mainly white boarding school over 300 miles away from her family.  Much of the novel centers on Sofia’s efforts to convince her parents to let her attend this school.  Throughout the novel, family traditions and celebrations are described, including those connected with the Day of the Dead.  There’s lots of humor in this novel, yet it also covers serious ground including discrimination, the difficulty of separation from family and death.


In Can’t Look Away by Donna Cooner (2015 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults nominee) sixteen-year-old Torrey has become quite well-known for her fashion and beauty video blog.  However, she is plagued with guilt over the fact that her little sister was killed by a drunk driver after an argument between the two girls.  When Torrey’s family moves from Colorado to Texas she finds the transition to a new school difficult.  On one hand she begins to join the ultra-popular set and on the other is drawn to Luis, who is not accepted by the leader of this crowd.  Luis brings Torrey into his family’s Day of the Dead traditions, which helps her cope with the loss of her sister.  Ultimately, Torrey must decide what means more to her: popularity or treating true friends with respect.


Peter Kuper’s Diario de Oaxaca: A Sketchbook Journal of Two Years in Mexico is a bilingual (English/Spanish) adult level graphic novel.  In 2006, author and illustrator Kuper moved with his wife and daughter from New York to the city of Oaxaca in southern Mexico, partly in an attempt to get away from all things political.  However, they happened to arrive in this new place during the regional government’s violent suppression of a teachers’ strike.  Kuper began to observe these events, sketching and writing illustrated letters.  He also drew scenes of daily life in Oaxaca, including sketches associated with the Day of the Dead, a holiday which is very important in the region.   The book includes sketches, paintings, comics and collages.


In Fated, the first book in her Soul Seekers series, Alyson Noël tells the story of Daire, a sixteen-year-old who is believed to be experiencing disturbing delusions. To avoid institutionalizing Daire, her mother sends her off to her grandmother, Paloma, a healer in the town of Enchantment, New Mexico.  It is Paloma who realizes that Daire’s “delusions” are actually visions which signify that Daire is a Seeker.  As such, Daire is called to assist misled souls.  Paloma helps Daire prepare for the ultimate challenge, fighting the evil beings who intend to take every soul in Enchantment on the Day of the Dead.  In the midst of all this, Daire must adjust to a new high school and two very different twin guys.


In Lauren Sabel’s Vivian Divine is Dead, the mother of sixteen-year-old movie star Vivian has fairly recently been murdered.  Vivian learns through an anonymous letter that someone wants to kill her too.  This news leads her to flee to Mexico in order to reach a safe house.  During her journey, Vivian meets Nick, an attractive yet somewhat mysterious guy who helps her out.  When the two are separated, however, Vivian must navigate solo through a place which is unfamiliar to her.  By doing so she learns that she actually possesses more strength and resilience than she’d realized.  The author’s vivid descriptions of the Day of the Dead are a particularly high point of the book.


– Anna Dalin, currently reading Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Write What You Want To Read

Tue, 10/28/2014 - 07:00

October is an exciting month for any YA lit fan, because it includes Teen Read Week! In honor of this annual celebration of young adult literature, YALSA invited book-loving teens all over the world to apply to share their enthusiasm for reading in a guest post for The Hub. Thirty-one talented young writers were chosen, and we’ll be featuring posts from these unique voices all month long. Here’s Ellie Gardiner from New Mexico.

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” —Toni Morrison

by flickr user urbanworkbench

Whether your favorite genre is dystopian, fantasy or science fiction, one thing is perpetually true. There are never enough books. We’ve all run to the store or library, riding a book high, desperately in need of a new novel to feed our crazed bibliophilic hunger… only to be disappointed by the lack of stories that seem to meet our satisfaction.
The truth is, there really are quite a lot of books out there. There is an enormous amount of fiction waiting to change someone’s life for the first time. There is a novel out there right now that is waiting to be loved, and smelled, and hugged, and cried over anew. And a good portion of these sorts of books have been written because someone – someone just like us – couldn’t find the book they wanted, and decided it was up to them to write it.

After I finished Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, I had an experience that changed my outlook on writing. I entered the local book store, still at the top of that aforementioned high, and accosted an employee. “Do you have any books I could read that might help me through the aftermath of this one?” I asked, gesturing to Zusak’s novel excitedly. My face fell as Gladys the Shelver responded, “I don’t know. I’d suggest looking in the teen section.”

Oh, dread.

I do not have the slightest vendetta against teen fiction, but that was the last place I wished to be pointed. I wanted specific suggestions. I wanted answers. Reluctantly, I slumped off to root through the romance novels in search of a historical fiction that would satisfy me.

This experience gave me a distinct hope for my own writing. I’ve written a historical fiction novel, and outlined another. I want my books to be on the shelves. I want other lovers of the genre to find them, and to find some meaning in them.

And this ambition all stems from a combination of passion, knack, and one common goal that I believe all authors share – even if they don’t completely realize it. We want our writing to be read. We want our stories to help people in ways that could be both personal and common. In other words, we want to make a difference in someone’s life, just as other authors have done in ours.
Allow me to spin off for a moment and address the question; what is the most important part of a story? Many people would say it is the characters, the setting, the plot… But I would say that it’s the story goal combined with an innate sense of meaning. What keeps us reading a story is a deep caring for the hero’s cause. And as writers, we have our own cause. Our own story goal. We’re striving to create worlds and people and plots that help people change, and laugh, and cry, and hopefully learn something in the process.

Some of the most useful advice I have ever received is this: write for someone. While you’re sitting there at your computer, brooding over chapter 4, focus on your audience. Are you writing for that girl in the bookstore who can’t seem to find the right science fiction novel? Are you writing for that boy in the library who really just wants to find a swashbuckling adventure story?
Regardless of who (or what!) your focus is, remember at least one thing above all this: when you find yourself in that age-old, bibliophilic conundrum of bookish lacking… write what you want to read. It doesn’t have to be perfect yet. It doesn’t even have to be a fully formed idea, but get it down, outline it, and run with it. See where it takes you, and know that all writers share a common goal. We all want to see our books lining the shelves. We all want someone to take one down, smile, and say, “This is just what I was looking for.”

Ellie Gardiner is a homeschooled sophomore living outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico. When she isn’t reading four books at once, she enjoys Hapkido, the BBC, writing on her blog (The Spilled Inkwell), and Venturing. Ellie has completed one fictional novel, is currently outlining another, and hopes to someday traditionally publish these and future stories.

To Kill a Mockingbirg Read-alikes

Mon, 10/27/2014 - 07:00

October is an exciting month for any YA lit fan, because it includes Teen Read Week! In honor of this annual celebration of young adult literature, YALSA invited book-loving teens all over the world to apply to share their enthusiasm for reading in a guest post for The Hub. Thirty-one talented young writers were chosen, and we’ll be featuring posts from these unique voices all month long. Here’s Bella Cavicchi from Massachusetts.

Asking an avid reader to name their favorite novel usually doesn’t end with a single answer. When I must list my favorite book, though, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is one of the first stories that comes to mind. I love everything about the novel, from Atticus’ words of wisdom to the mysterious background of Boo Radley, and it’s the classic I happily recommend the most.

Once you finish TKM, however, you may wonder what book to turn to next. Here’s a handy-dandy guide of To Kill a Mockingbird read-alikes, novels that share a similar element or theme with Harper Lee’s book. Whether you just recently shared in Scout’s story or haven’t read To Kill a Mockingbird for years, I encourage you to give it a second look – and with one of these new novels in hand!

A very prominent theme of To Kill a Mockingbird is racism, exploring how it can affect an entire community, not just one person. These next three books also tackle race, but from different positions and times in history. Revolution, by Deborah Wiles, is the second book in a trilogy about events of the sixties, but it can easily be read on its own. Wiles takes a thorough look at the events of Freedom Summer in 1964, and she includes a variety of media {such as photos, song lyrics, and speeches} for a fascinating reading experience.

The next book, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor is another well-known classic, also set in the south during the 1930’s. In this novel, however, readers are given the perspective of a young black girl, which could lead to an interesting discussion about the Cassie, Roll of Thunder’s main character, and Scout.

Another great book that writes about race in an engaging and thought-provoking way is The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had by Kristin Levine. Even just one look at the synopsis will surely let you see the similarities between Levine’s historical fiction and To Kill a Mockingbird, but it’s set a couple of decades earlier, in 1917. The main characters Dit and Emma may be an odd pair, but that’s what usually makes for the best stories!

Maycomb is one of the most well known small towns in literature and for good reason. The community certainly isn’t without its problems, but Harper Lee captures the close-knit life perfectly with the events of the story. Another book that features a small town is Way Down Deep by Ruth White. Set in the mid 1940’s, the novel has a timeless quality that will appeal to a wide variety of readers.

Want another small town story? I recommend any of Richard Peck’s books; the one I remember reading most recently is A Long Way from Chicago. His trademark writing style – quirky and funny – translates well to a story set in a small community, and in this novel, you’ll find it’s easy to escape into the adventures of Joey, Mary Alice, and their hilarious, unusual grandma.

On a similar note, a town would be nothing without the people living within it! These two books have casts of characters that remind me of the memorable Maycomb community. To Kill a Mockingbird’s protagonist, young Scout, is spirited, thoughtful, and confident; I can’t think of a better modern parallel that Moses LoBeau, or Mo, from Three Times Lucky by Shelia Turnage. Set in another small southern town, this fun mystery makes me think that Mo and Scout would be great friends, as would Mo’s father figure, the Colonel, and Atticus!

On the Road to Mr. Mineo’s, by Barbara O’Connor, takes a different route. While there is no set main character, you’ll learn the background of the entire town by the time you’re done reading. Like many of the supporting characters in To Kill a Mockingbird, they each have something interesting to add! They’re also all endearing, so believe me, you’ll have some trouble picking a favorite.

Finally, maybe you’re just in the mood to read about other To Kill a Mockingbird fans {and why wouldn’t you be?}. These two books celebrate the beauty of Harper Lee’s words, and if you haven’t read the classic, these novels will be motivation enough. Beside its awesome title, Paul Acampora’s I Kill the Mockingbird encourages a whole new generation of readers. Following three kids’ mission to get others to read TKM, it’s a hilarious read that both book lovers and irregular readers will appreciate!

Another To Kill a Mockingbird themed novel is Karen Harrington’s Sure Signs of Crazy. It is not the central theme of the book, but Sarah’s letters to Atticus will make you smile. The book will touch you in more ways than one, as Harrington takes on mental illness and an absent parent; basically it’s a coming of age novel done right.

Thank you so much to The Hub for this opportunity! I had a blast writing about my favorite classic, and I hope I’ve persuaded you to check out some of these excellent novels too.

Bella Cavicchi is a high school student and an avid reader and blogger. When she’s not stuck with her nose in a book or with a pencil in hand, she can be found stage managing school drama productions, shopping at J.Crew, or writing yet another to-do list. Please visit her at

Notes from a Teens’ Top Ten Book Club Book Group Participant: Series That Deliver

Mon, 10/27/2014 - 07:00

Teens across the nation have voted for this year’s 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.

Splintered by A.G. Howard is an amazing Teen’s Top Ten nominee. The series begins with an interesting twist to the Alice in Wonderland story; it puts it to a new light. A.G. Howard manages to avoid two typical problems in trilogies. The trilogy is absolutely amazing through the entire thing and it has an incredible ending that ties up all loose threads and still leaves you happy and satisfied. Most books have parts where they slow down– the plotline drags a little, and you get bored. This series is a different story. The books are consistently great, and are extremely enjoyable to read.

Most trilogies start really well, and the second book slows down a bit, and then the third either falls flat, makes you angry due to the loss of an important character (or multiple), or just doesn’t end well. This is shown in almost anyone who read the Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth. The second book was a little of a let-down compared to the first, and the third’s ending was torture for the reader. However, the third book in the Splintered trilogy, Ensnared, defies the system and manages to have an ending that completes the series in an incredible way. Anyone looking for a book to read who is into the fantasy genre will have a BLAST with this trilogy, beginning with the novel Splintered. Personally, this book has inspired me with its hidden messages, and entertained me for hours. I simply could NOT put it down once I picked it up. It now has a permanent home on my re-readable shelf, and has wormed its way into my favorite book list- which is a massive accomplishment, due to my insatiable hunger for the written words. I have read a LOT, and this made its way up to be my all-time favorite. I HIGHLY suggest it!

Another great example for a trilogy that delivers is The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta.  Yet another problem with many trilogies is the loss of characters.  The loss of characters can appear in two forms: the death of a character whose death comes as a shock, and a great character who falls apart.  The Hunger Games is a notable example of a trilogy that loses characters. Due to the nature of the book, characters die—and Katniss, who started the series as independent and strong, seems weaker by comparison.

In Finnikin of the Rock, the first book of The Lumatere Chronicles, which admittedly isn’t my favorite, some of the characters are unlikable and others lack complex emotions.  However, I stuck it out because of the intricate plot and because I had the second book, Froi of the Exiles, sitting next to me.  The first half of Froi of the Exiles is not my type of book.  I found several of the characters bland and the plot was not picking up.  I feared that this trilogy would not be what I had hoped for and would fall apart like so many others.  However, before I knew it, the second book ended strong because of the surprisingly intricate plot the emerged from the dirt of the first half and the elaborate characters came on the petals of the flourishing plot.

The third and final book in the trilogy, Quintana of Charyn, is hard to explain because it is breathtakingly perfect.  Unlike so many trilogies and series, the characters in The Lumatere Chronicles continued to develop.  The plot is set up perfectly for each character to grow in themselves until the balance between internal struggle and external struggle came to a final conclusion that leaves the reader breathless with tears streaking down each cheek.  This trilogy has a mixture of adventure, fantasy, tragedy, and romance so that any reader would fall into the arms of the eloquent characters and intriguing plot.  It’s needless to say that Quintana of Charyn is not just on my favorite books lists–  instead, it created a new standard for what it means to be my personal favorite book.

-Lucy Manlick, age 14, and Grace O’Neil, age 17 Members of the CCHS YA Galley Club

What Would They Read?: Monster Edition!

Mon, 10/27/2014 - 07:00

I know some of you are patiently waiting for the conclusion of my Firefly post in September.  Unfortunately you will have to wait a little bit more as I am interrupting my own series of posts to bring you this Halloween Monster Edition of “What Would They Read.”  I promise I will finish Firefly next month.  As I see it, we Firefly fans are used to things we love and look forward to being abruptly ended.  It’s sad, but true.

OK, back to monsters…

There were two ways I considered approaching this blog post.  I could go the easy way and match various monsters with books that include characters from the same species.  For example, Dracula would just love to read The Twilight Saga because of all the vampires.  Sure, I’ll throw in a few of those.  The real challenge lies in finding books for these monster archetypes that more reflect their personality types.  It’s a bit more difficult, but I’m up for the challenge.  Go big or go home, right?

Dracula – Before vampires became a standard villainous character is several movies, shows, and books, Bram Stoker brought us the original vampire story.  Some may say that there’s a historical connection to the evil ruler, Vlad the Impaler.  I’m not going to debate for or against that idea, but I will say that guy was fairly creepy.

Those who have read the original novel,  Dracula, know that while the vampire was super spooky, he was also very lonely.  He used his vampire ways to try to get friends and girlfriend.  True, he didn’t go about this search in the conventional way by simply introducing himself to new people.  Instead, he charmed the mentally unstable Renfield and made him his somewhat friend, although I think the term is closer to minion than friend.  Once he decided he wanted a woman in his life, he did not go about courting her in a traditional manner.  After a few midnight visits full of blood drinking, Dracula had Lucy right where he wanted her; in a coffin.

So what books would I give to Dracula?  For a direct connection between Dracula and other vampire stories, I would love to give Dracula Fat Vampire by Adam Rex.  Rex tells the story of a boy who is turned into a vampire and must live out his afterlife as an overweight, unpopular teen.  While he was a vicious killer, I would like to think he has a bit of a sense of humor.  Now for the more difficult aspect of the recommendation.  Dracula may be a vicious murder, but he has a sense of class.  He’s not going to leave a large mess behind or draw attention to himself.  He’s refined and charismatic.  The first book that came to mind is We Were Liars by E. Lockhart.  The books is full of people who might not be the most compassionate people, but they are emotional.  They also have a lot of secrets.  The second title that I thought of is more about style than content.  Stoker’s novel was written in letters as that was the mode of communication during that time period.  I thought about choosing a book that took place during the late 1800s, but I decided that an epistolary novel would be better.  I am still torn between two novels to recommend so I’ll just mention both.  The first, Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher, is a story about a girl who is trying to deal with personal relationship issues by writing letters to a man on death row.  The second book is Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira.  In this book, the main character uses a school assignment asking her to write letters to a dead person to deal with her sister’s death.  The last two choices may seem odd, but I’m going with my book recommendation instincts.

Frankenstein’s Monster – I want to be clear here, for those of you who also hate the confusion between Dr. Frankenstein and Frankenstein’s monster.  I am searching for books for the monster, not the doctor.  It is so easy to align the creature’s issues with problems people face today.  All the creature wanted was to be accepted into society and be a part of something.  Unfortunately his appearance stopped his from getting close to anyone, even the doctor.

The most obvious choice for Frankenstein’s monster is the book Mister Creecher by Chris Priestly.  In this book, a young boy teams up with  a giant man he calls Mister Creecher in a journey to catch up with a scientist who promised Mister Creecher a wife.  Mister Creecher is close to a retelling of the creature’s story.  I’m sure that the creature would enjoy reading a story in which he is not portrayed solely as an irrational monster, but as someone who is trying to be accepted.  There are also the books by Kenneth Oppel, This Dark Endeavor and Such Wicked Intent, that tell the story of a young Victor   Frankenstein.  The creatures might enjoy reading about his creator’s childhood.

When I first decided to do a blog entry on monsters, it was Frankenstein’s monster that guided that idea.  All the creature wants is to be accepted by others and end his loneliness.  That alone is the basis for several teen novels.  That was the angle I used to determine what books I would give the creature.  Bruiser by Neal Shusterman (2012 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults) is a fantastic choice.  Bruiser is a misunderstood boy who is constantly judged by his appearance.  Eventually siblings Tennyson and Bronte realize that Bruiser has the amazing ability to take on the pain from other people.  The original creature in Mary Shelley’s story was not the grunting, mindless green man found in pop culture.  The original monster learned and was intelligent and articulate.  I know that Bruiser would make an impression on him.

Do you think you are up to the challenge?  What books would you suggest to the Wolfman?  How about a zombie from Dawn of the Dead?  Please leave your comments below.

-Brandi Smits, currently reading She is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick

The Monday Poll: Your Favorite Zombie Book

Sun, 10/26/2014 - 23:18

Good morning, Hub readers!

Last week, we kicked off the Halloween celebrations early by asking about your favorite YA book featuring witches. The top choice, with 33% of the vote, was Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins. This was closely followed by Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood, with 25% of the vote. Write-in suggestions included Joseph Delaney’s Last Apprentice series and, of course, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books. Check the comments on last week’s poll for all the suggestions, and see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive. Thanks to all of you who voted!

This week, we’re continuing with the Halloween theme– we want to know your favorite YA zombie novel! 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.

YA Trends Throughout The Years

Sun, 10/26/2014 - 11:19

October is an exciting month for any YA lit fan, because it includes Teen Read Week! In honor of this annual celebration of young adult literature, YALSA invited book-loving teens all over the world to apply to share their enthusiasm for reading in a guest post for The Hub. Thirty-one talented young writers were chosen, and we’ll be featuring posts from these unique voices all month long. Here’s Saraya Flaig from Idaho.

Matched by Ally Condie - Everybody in society when they turn 16, gets a match, you get one match, until one day a girl gets two by an accident on the computer. One is her best friend and the other is someone that seems perfect for her and she doesn’t know who to choose.

Divergent by Veronica Roth - Everything in society is run by factions. Each faction has specific job, and everyone is part of one of the factions. It is time for Tris to take her test to see what faction she gets into, but she doesn’t have one faction she has three, which is divergent and divergent is dangerous.

Selection Series by Kiera Cass - Society is ran by a caste system, and the highest is the ones who are royalty. America is a four. When the time comes for Prince Maxon to choose a wife she applies for the Selection. For some mysterious reason she is chosen and gets to live at the castle and experience royal life in a setting kind of like the Bachelorette.

Maze Runner by James Dashner - Imagine waking up in a box and not knowing where you are, who you are, or anything except your name. That is what everyone who goes to the Glade experiences. The only thing they know is what people tell them when they get there, which is that there is no way out, only through the maze that no one can solve.

Delirium Series by Lauren Oliver - Love is evil, and love must be cleansed from your system, this what the society believes. When Lena falls in love, she starts to doubt society and rebel against everything she as ever known.

Contemporary Authors Mentioned:
Rainbow Rowell- Writes books like Eleanor and Park and Fangirl, usually about misfits that find their way in life.

John Green- Writes The Fault in Our Stars and Looking for Alaska, usually writes teen romances with characters that don’t know where they are going in life.

My Favorite Fantasy Books:
The Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare - Imagine that all of the creatures you dreamed about when you were little were real, well they are. Shadowhunters hunt them and kill the bad ones. Clary is a girl who is a shadowhunter by blood and she doesn’t know it, until she sees something in a club one day.

Percy Jackson/Heroes of Olympus Series by Rick Riordan -Takes place in modern day America, but has ancient Greek and Roman god elements. Demigods (half god, half human) have to learn how to deal with the God’s tempers and try to save the world.

Splintered by A.G. Howard - A modern Alice in Wonderland that is twisted. Ever since Alice every woman in Alyssa’s family has been in a mental hospital. She starts hearing whispers from bugs and flowers and she starts to learn that Wonderland isn’t really wonderful.

- Saraya Flaig is a 15 years old. She is from Idaho and a sophomore in high school. In her free time she absolutely loves to read and do cheerleading. 

Books as Palate Cleansers

Sun, 10/26/2014 - 10:17

October is an exciting month for any YA lit fan, because it includes Teen Read Week! In honor of this annual celebration of young adult literature, YALSA invited book-loving teens all over the world to apply to share their enthusiasm for reading in a guest post for The Hub. Thirty-one talented young writers were chosen, and we’ll be featuring posts from these unique voices all month long. Here’s Becca Holladay, who lives in Yokota, Japan.

My mom knows what it means when I collapse onto her bed crying. It means I have finished yet another series.

As a voracious reader, I am always with a book. And there is a pattern among those books, and that is that they are all fantasy/sci-fi/romance books! I usually refuse to read anything else.

But after I finish a particularly heart-wrenching series (Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series, anyone?), and I end up completely heartbroken, I just need to take a break. And by break, I don’t mean from reading, heaven forbid! I just take a break from reading addicting series.

For me, after I read the Throne of Glass books by Sarah J. Maas (amazing series, but tragically the third book is not out yet), I had to take a break from the heartbreak. I read a truly astonishing and well written book called Acid by Emma Pass. Yes, Acid is a science-fiction book, yes, it does have its own heart wrenches. But It has a good, satisfying ending, and that is saying something coming from me.

If you need a break from fantasy altogether, try some realistic fiction, like The Mother-Daughter Book Club series written by Heather Vogel Frederick. I am so happy I read these books. Before I did, I was convinced that the only books that gave me joy were fantasy orientated, and these books completely opened my eyes. Witty, interesting, and adorable, these make great palate cleansers! Teenagers can really connect with the different characters in these books.

Also, Between The Lines by Jodi Picoult was so good! It is about a teenage girl who is in love with a character in a children’s book. But little does she know, he’s in love with her too! Sounds impossible, right? That’s what Delilah thinks too when the supposed Prince Oliver actually talks to her! He hates living in a fairy tale, and all he wants is to get into the real world. As they work together to get Oliver out of the book, their romance and desperation only grows. This beautiful stand alone is rich with love, hopes and dreams, and is a worthwhile read. It also gives a nice break from fantasy series.

One final example of an amazing palate cleanser is Eve and Adam by Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate. A short, stand-alone book with some nice plot twists and action thrown in, it makes a good palate cleanser. It is science fiction, but it is a stand-alone (so you are not quite as attached to the characters, though this is not true for all books), it is short, and it is funny! It has really good jokes thrown in here and there, and has an acceptable ending.

Now that you are armed with what palate cleansers are, as well as a few suggestions, you can take on all the fantasy and heartwrenching books you like! Just remember to take a nice, clean break when you get in over your head, and you’ll be set!

Rebecca Holladay is a 13 year old girl who resides at Yokota Air Base, Japan. She loves reading, playing flute, reading and acting. Oh, and reading.

Diving Deeper into Divergent

Sat, 10/25/2014 - 07:00

October is an exciting month for any YA lit fan, because it includes Teen Read Week! In honor of this annual celebration of young adult literature, YALSA invited book-loving teens all over the world to apply to share their enthusiasm for reading in a guest post for The Hub. Thirty-one talented young writers were chosen, and we’ll be featuring posts from these unique voices all month long. Here’s Nedda Bozorgmehri from California.

On the surface, Divergent can be viewed as a popular young adult action-packed novel about bravery, love, and perseverance. The book has captured the attention of many young adults for its thrilling plot line and stimulating characters. However, there is one aspect of this captivating book that most people probably have not taken into consideration: connecting Divergent to history. Divergent is quite the modern book with its utopian world of faction systems created to prevent war. By diving deeper into the depths of Divergent and closely analyzing the ideas in text, one can discover that Divergent also has a historical significance as it can be related to the revolutionary ideas of communism and capitalism.

The factions were created with the hopes of eliminating future war and violence. It was believed that if each person selects their faction and focuses only on their faction’s morals everyone will be equal and there will be no conflict. This idea of creating a world in which all people are equal with the hopes of eliminating war, can be related to communism. A communist society is one in which resources are created and distributed equally among all members. On the other hand, capitalism promotes free enterprise; in this society individuals benefit and prosper based on their own innovation and productivity. Selfishness arises in a capitalist government as people compete to sell the ideas they think are best. Whereas in a communist government, selfishness fails to exist due to the encompassing sense of equality and selflessness. Abnegation, the faction where all members are required to be selfless in all the actions they endeavor, can be related to communism. Erudite, the highly intelligent “bookworm” faction, can be connected with the capitalist ideals, as they want to obtain more control of the government, sell their own ideas, and reject the “communist ideals” of Abnegation. In Divergent, Abnegation is the faction that has control over the government; Erudite opposes this and believes that the “intelligent” faction ought to have control over the government. The idea of capitalism falls under the members in the Erudite faction because in a sense they are being selfish and wanting to take over the government since they want to promote their ideas and technologies. Most people believe that Tris is a threat to this society because the fact that she is divergent means she cannot fall under the spell of manipulative Erudite serums and trackers. Within historical context, Tris is divergent because she can be both a capitalist (Erudite) and act selfishly, or she can be a communist (Divergent) and act selflessly. Because of her mixed personality, she puts the faction system in jeopardy.

The idea of creating a more perfect “utopian” society is nothing new, as it has been prevalent throughout history during the period of Marx and Lenin. Marx believed that through communism a selfless and equal societal class would be created. He believed that by eliminating competition and inequality, conflict would also be prevented because no one would have a purpose for triggering war. Prominent aspects of Marxist communism are revealed in the Abnegation Faction; the main goal of Abnegation is to function in ways that will benefit the entire faction system and to have their actions benefit all. Later on, a man named Vladimir Lenin took Marxist Communist ideas to the next level as he believed in the establishment of a society where no one can be better than anyone else and the government is in charge of providing resources to the less fortunate lower classes. These details are highlighted in Divergent, considering that Abnegation’s primary goal is to serve the factionless (the lower class) and to treat everyone equally. Additionally, in Leninists communism only one governing body existed and had control over everyone else. In Divergent, Abnegation is the governing body and no other factions are allowed to take part in controlling the government. Capitalist ideals are represented in the Erudite faction. In the book Divergent, Erudite are known for their ability to invent technologies and obtain various resources. They are knowledgeable people who love to learn. Erudite believed that conflict can be prevented through knowledge and understanding. The Erudite faction leader, Jeanine, believes that in order to create a more perfect society Erudite must be in charge of the faction system. Jeanine displays characteristics of greed and selfishness similar to those of extreme capitalists.

Furthermore, it is quite interesting to see how these historical ideals indirectly appear in Divergent. This demonstrates how history truly influences our actions and ideas today; key historical aspects can be applied to almost anything. By unraveling the historical aspects of Divergent, one can see how it is very difficult to achieve peace in a world full of divisions and inequalities. However, it is also challenging to achieve peace in a society where only one group has control over everything, and everyone must follow their say. After evaluating the relationships between Divergent, communism, and capitalism I would like to propose my own suggestion for how peace could be held between societies or factions. How can a utopian world be fully achieved? It is clear that both communism and capitalism are extreme ideas, with various contradictions in policies.  I believe that in order to achieve that perfect world there must be a balance between the two extremes. Developing a compromise that will appease both sides is a great way to establish a strong, prosperous government.  It appears to me that Tris is the most successful character in the book because she is Divergent. She hasn’t chosen between one of the “extremes.” Although in the book Tris’ mixed personality threatens the faction system, I think that in reality her divergence is what makes her character so wise, flexible, and strong. In connection to the book: a government led by the Divergent will be more powerful than a government led by just Abnegation or Erudite. In connection to history: a government led by individuals with diverse personalities, talents, and beliefs seems to be more powerful than a government solely led by extreme ideals such as full communism or capitalism.

(I used Amanda Wilson’s article So You Say You Want a Revolution: Marxism, Leninism, and Capitalism as the Basis for Factions in Divergent, as reference and support.)

~ Ever since Nedda Bozorgmehri was little, she has been passionate about reading and writing. She especially loves reading action packed, exciting novels, like Divergent, that have significant morals and lessons woven throughout.

Tweets of the Week: October 24

Fri, 10/24/2014 - 07:00

Happy Friday, Hub Readers!  Isn’t October the best month ever?  Horror movies, changing leaves, and best of all – Halloween!  Check out these tweets of the week with lots of Lorde, hoards of Hunger Games info & of course, Batman!  In case you missed it…I’m here to compile it all for you!

Books & Reading





– Traci Glass, currently reading Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen

eBooks? No Thanks.

Fri, 10/24/2014 - 07:00

October is an exciting month for any YA lit fan, because it includes Teen Read Week! In honor of this annual celebration of young adult literature, YALSA invited book-loving teens all over the world to apply to share their enthusiasm for reading in a guest post for The Hub. Thirty-one talented young writers were chosen, and we’ll be featuring posts from these unique voices all month long. Here’s Courtney Kilroy from Nebraska.

I… am not a fan of ebooks. Never have been, possibly never will be. Why?

If you’re reading this, you must be a dedicated reader. Of anything. Newspapers, magazines, novels, chapter books, graphic novels, manga, et cetera. Why else would you be reading a blog about books?? And if you’re a dedicated reader, you know how exciting it is when your favorite author releases a new book, or when the next issue of your favorite magazine hits the shelves. And the build-up that makes it exciting.

  • The cliffhanger left at the end of the last book.
  • The nine months you waited until the title and sneak peek were released.
  • The additional month you waited until the book actually was available in stores.
  • The drive to the bookstore.
  • The speed-walk to the young-adult fiction aisle.
  • Then… you see it. You hold it in your hands, and you flip through the pages.
  • You have the thing you’ve been waiting for what seems like forever.
  • You check out, and read in the car (unless, of course, you’re driving, in which case you should
    be watching the road).

Does that sound familiar? It does for me. It’s like that with all the books I read, right now. Or
replace the bookstore with a library. Anyway, I feel like you don’t get that with an ebook.

  • The cliffhanger at the end of the last book.
  • The nine months you waited for the title and sneak peek to be released.
  • The additional month you waited until the book was actually available in the iTunes Store.
  • The opening of the iTunes app.
  • The typing of the name of the book into the search bar.
  • The clicking on the book’s icon.
  • The downloading of the book. 1%…2%…3%…

Kind of anticlimactic, don’t you think?

Not only that, you miss the experience with ebooks. Obsessing over trying to not bend or tear the pages, smelling the “new book smell” all new novels have (or even the “old book smell” of the classics), and the amazing feeling at the end of a book when you turn the last page, read the last sentence, close the cover, and begin to ponder what you’re going to do with the rest of your life. Where is that feeling of accomplishment? That feeling is satisfaction? You don’t get it with an ebook.

Now, yes, I own ebooks. But I feel like I don’t own them. I take pride in the books I own. To be able to physically hold them, and display to all you see, that you own this amazing masterpiece of literature. For those reading who’ve read The Book Thief, do you remember when Liesel first steps into the mayor’s library? And she spins around with her eyes closed and fingertips brushing across the spines of the books? The sheer majesty of a room full of books, a room full of things yet to be discovered, it’s so amazing, and I can’t explain it. And just shoving that majesty into hard metal box, limiting them to the mere covers so many people judge them by, it doesn’t seem right.

Teenager. What just popped into your head? Whether it way a boy or girl, with acne or a clear face, holding a Starbuck’s coffee or a bag of Doritos, it definitely had one thing. An iPhone. Or iPad. Or laptop. Some kind of technology. Definitely not a novel or a textbook. Guess what you need to read an ebook? An iPhone. Or iPad. Or even laptop. Even though you know you’re reading a book, adults take you as another phone-absorbed teen. So, shouldn’t we feel a certain pride in being seen with a novel, defying the definition of the word teenager? Showing the adults who write off all teenagers as “technology-obsessed,” that we can take joy in things other than the number of likes our selfie gets on Instagram?

By the way! I’m Courtney Kilroy. I live in Omaha, Nebraska. I have spent fourteen years on this lovely Earth of ours, the last month of which I’ve used to begin my high school career. When I’m not reading, I participate in trapshooting and I am an avid movie-goer. I have a sister, two nieces (Katie and Danielle), a nephew (Elijah), and a mom and a dad. So, that’s all for me. Thanks for spending ten minutes of your life on my opinions!

Books that Spooked Us!

Fri, 10/24/2014 - 07:00

It’s that spooky time of year when ghoulies and ghosties are everywhere you look, so I thought it might be fun to see which books and stories memorably freaked out the Hub bloggers. Below are some of the stories that stuck with us because of the sheer terror they evoked when we read them. Some of them are straight up horror, some of them purely psychological, but all of them memorable! While Stephen King naturally gets mentioned a lot, it’s Lois Duncan’s Stranger with My Face and Daniel Kraus’ 2012 Odyssey Award winner, Rotters, that got the most mentions.  Many thanks to the Hub Bloggers who shared their scares! Read them this Halloween if you dare!


Libby Gorman

I read Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry for a course, and while I loved it, I also made my husband take out the trash for a few weeks afterward in case of zombie attack (because, of course, zombies can get you in the backyard when it’s dark, but they can’t make their way into a lighted house!). I also remember that Roald Dahl’s The Witches freaked me out quite a bit as a kid.


Anna Tschetter 

The first one is 172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad. I finished it late at night all alone in my apartment. I was certain that - spoiler warning! -  my space doppelganger was going to come around the corner and kill me! I had to watch a full half hour of cat videos online before I could fall asleep.

The Adult/YA crossover is more deeply unsettling than scary. It’s the scene in Lev Grossman’s The Magicians where the villain, the Beast, shows up in the classroom with his face obscured by a branch, and wreaks havoc. There’s something about the fact that you can’t see his face that has always creeped me out. Similarly, this has made me hate Rene Magritte’s Son of Man painting.


Diane Colson

This was many years ago, but when I read Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, I started trembling in fear. I was afraid to turn my head lest I glimpse something unnatural on the walls of my parents’ living room. I remember the terror better than I remember the actual story.


Chelsea Condren

The first book I remember being terrified by was Stranger with My Face by Lois Duncan. Also, The Body of Christopher Creed by Carol Plum-Ucci.

Geri Diorio

I read Daniel Kraus’ Rotters and thought it was disturbing and brilliant, but not scare-the-pants-off-you scary. So when I got my hands on his book Scowler, I figured I could handle it. While I was sitting on the couch reading THAT SCENE (if you’ve read Scowler, you know what I am talking about), my boyfriend walked into the room. I was so absorbed in the story that I didn’t register his presence at all.

“Are you alright?” he asked me, startling me back into the present moment.

“Yeah, why?” I asked.

“You had The Stephen King Face on while you were reading.”

Although I had never heard that phrase, I knew exactly what he meant, and I laughed a little, grateful for a moment of levity in an otherwise harrowing evening of reading.

“Yes, I’m OK, thanks. This is Stephen King level horrific.”

He nodded and wandered off. I dove back into the book, unable to keep away from it, no matter how frightening.


Tara Kehoe

Stranger with my Face- Lois Duncan. Something about the impersonation aspect of this title really spooked me.  Written long before the release of the terrifying movie “Single White Female,” it seems even scarier somehow to be impersonated when you are a teenager.

Harvest Home- Thomas Tryon. Pure terror.   Tryon expertly depicts an insulated farming community which seems so peaceful then the slow realization builds that there is dark danger there.

Salem’s Lot- Stephen King. The most frightened I have ever been reading a book.  I was simultaneously afraid to read on, and too terrified to stop.  There is one scene near the end where the main character is slowly going up a flight of stairs to open a bedroom door.  The reader knows what it is that room… and the suspense is palpable.

Possessed- Kate Cann. Atmospheric terror—young Rayne has always lived in urban poverty (also pretty terrifying) and the juxtaposition between that and her new home on a sprawling haunted moor is fantastically chilling.


Kelly Dickinson

Last year I read Long Lankin by Lindsay Barraclough and it quickly became my go-to recommendation for anyone looking for a good scare! It’s a classically spooky horror story with a well-imagined setting, atmospheric writing, and a very good helping of old-fashioned, slow-building but insidious creepiness! I’m very glad I read that last one hundred pages or so in my Washington DC apartment, far away from dark forests, crumbling manors, dank marshes, and dilapidated church yards! Even so, my heart was racing as I read the frightening climax and I may or may not have slept with a light on that night!


Sharon Rawlins

The book that scared me the most recently is Rotters by Daniel Kraus. It wasn’t so much that it was about grave-digging and unearthing corpses in various degrees of decomposition, although that did make me feel a bit queasy. It was the description of rat kings. I hate rats! The image of dozens of rats connected to each other by their tails gives me nightmares. I’d first read about the folklore of the Rat King in Robert Sullivan’s nonfiction book Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants when it was nominated for Best Books for Young Adults  in 2005 and it has haunted me ever since.


And finally, my own freak out stories- Stephen King’s short story “You Know They Got a Hell of a Band” (about a town where rock legends go after they die, and no one who ends up there is ever allowed to leave) in Nightmares and Dreamscapes literally scared me so much I slept with the light on for weeks after I read it lest Elivs Presley come after me. Something about the psychological terror of being trapped really got to me! When I was a kid the book Christina’s Ghost by Betty Ren Wright scared me half to death- even today when I see the cover of that book I feel chills, remembering the terror of the last few scenes. And I made the rookie mistake of reading Kendare Blake’s Girl of Nightmares after dark even though I knew what to expect after Anna Dressed in Blood, which gave me a couple of sleepless nights…okay, a few sleepless nights!

-Carla Land, currently reading Nightmares by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller

Teen Romance in YA Lit

Thu, 10/23/2014 - 07:00

October is an exciting month for any YA lit fan, because it includes Teen Read Week! In honor of this annual celebration of young adult literature, YALSA invited book-loving teens all over the world to apply to share their enthusiasm for reading in a guest post for The Hub. Thirty-one talented young writers were chosen, and we’ll be featuring posts from these unique voices all month long. Here’s Karina Hernandez from New Jersey.

Young adult books with teen romance are the stories that take you on a roller coaster of emotion. It’s the moment when the two characters meet. It’s the love that grows between the two of them. It’s the introduction of a good love triangle. It’s the struggle when the couple refuses to accept their love for each other. It’s the tears shed, the pillows punched in frustration, the smile released when they finally kiss.

The many emotions of YA lit

Everyone has their favorite couple from a YA- Hazel and Augustus, Anna and Étienne, Tris and Tobias, Sophie and Archer, Hermione and Ron, Samantha and Jase, Willem and Allyson, Eleanor and Park. Everyone also has their favorite love triangle – Katniss/Peeta/Gale, Bella/Edward/Jacob, America/Maxon/Aspen, Clara/Tucker/Christian, Juliette/Adam/Warner (Why does it seem like all the love triangles are two boys and a girl, anyway?).

These are the stories that leave us either sobbing at the end or just closing the book and letting out the biggest smile. These stories make us fall in love and just feel happy from head to toe. They take us on a crazy adventure from start from finish, leaving us rapidly turning the pages, thirsty for more.

Now I’ll quickly take you through some of my favorite teen romances in young adult lit and describe the story, the feels, and the love.


My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick


Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins


The Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer


The Fault in Our Stars by John Green


Divergent by Veronica Roth


The Unearthly Trilogy by Cynthia Hand


To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han


This is What Happy Looks Like, The Geography of You and Me, and The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith


–Karina Hernandez


Hi, I’m Karina. I’m 17 years old and a high school senior from New Jersey. I love reading. My favorite genres are Young Adult and Contemporary; anything with a good love story. You can find me talking about more books at mylifeinstory. Besides reading I sing in three of my schools’ choirs. Netflix is my best friend. Hope you enjoy my blog post!

Cozy Up to a Good Mystery, Part 2

Thu, 10/23/2014 - 07:00

Last year, I created a post with some of my favorite cozy mysteries with teen appeal. It’s a fact; I love cozy mysteries. I love the relationships in cozy mysteries as many of them are set in small towns or close-knit communities. Everyone seems to know everyone else. Plus, most cozies are part of a series, so once a year you get to hang out with old friends.

If You Want to Own a Store:
Secondhand Spirits by Juliet Blackwell
Lily’s a witch who’s been on the run, hiding her true self from the world. Now she’s ready to settle down. She opens a vintage clothing store in San Fransisco and feels at home. Upon visiting a client, she learns about a local legend. When that client dies the next day, Lily wonders if the legend could be real. Can she help without exposing her secret?
The Long Quiche Goodbye by Avery Aames
Charlotte and her cousin open a wine and cheese store. During the grand re-opening, a murder occurs right outside. When the police identify Charlotte’s grandmother as the chief suspect, she starts her own investigation.
Mum’s the Word by Kate Collins
Abby Knight is not having a good day, even though she’s trying to be cheerful. Someone hits her corvette and takes off. Abby’s determined to track down the owner and make him pay, until she realizes that the person driving off might have committed a murder. Going after him seems like a deadly plan, but what if he comes after her?

If You Like Cooking:
State of the Onion by Julie Hyzy
White House Assistant Chef Olivia Paras wants to land the  job of her dreams – Executive Chef after her boss and friend retires. When she spies a man out of place in the White House, she takes action. Now she’s the only person to see the assassin, the Chameleon, and he’s not happy about it.
Clammed Up by Barbara Moss
Julia came home to small town Maine to rescue the family business. Unfortunately, a man’s murdered on the island where they host their clam bakes. Now, Julia needs the  murder solved ASAP or the business will be turned over to the bank. Can she solve a murder and save her business?
An Appetite for Murder by Lucy Burdette
Hayley dreams of becoming a food critic. When she applies for a job at a Key West magazine, she realizes that her would be boss is the woman she caught with her boyfriend. Crossing that job off her list, Hayley’s stunned to learn that Kristen’s been poisoned by a Key Lime Pie and she’s the chief suspect in the murder.

If  You Have a Sweet Tooth:
All Fudged Up by Nancy Coco
Allie McMurphy inherited an old inn and fudge shop that’s been in the family for generations. Although she’s come to the island for the summers, she’s still considered an outsider. When a body turns up in her hotel, an old family feud comes to light and the town starts taking sides. Can Allie help uncover the truth before the murder puts her out of business – for good?
Sprinkle with Murder by Jenn McKinlay
Melanie and Angie just opened their own cupcake bakery. Super excited about this new business venture, they agree to cater a wedding. Unfortunately, the bride turns out to be a bridezilla. When Mel stumbles across the bride’s body, she soon becomes involved in the case trying to clear her own name.
Bran New Death by Victoria Hamilton
Merry Wynter inherits a castle. Even though she can’t afford to keep it, she’s happy to have a place to escape to after a nightmare situation with her former boss. Someone’s not happy that Merry owns the castle now and they’re resorting to vandalizing her property. Before she can catch them in the act, a body turns up. There’s no way Merry can sell the castle with a murder hanging over her head, so she starts investigating before she becomes the prime suspect.
Brownies and Broomsticks by Bailey Cates
Katie’s thrilled at the invitation to join her aunt and uncle at their new bakery, but she’s more than a little surprised when her aunt adds extra ingredients to the recipes. These aren’t your average indigents, but spells for their customers. When her uncle gets into a fight with a customer, who later turns up murdered outside the bakery, he’s suspected of murder. Katie and her aunt work quickly to uncover the real culprit behind the murder -with a little magical help.
Cookie Dough or Die by Virginia Lowell
Olivia owns the Gingerbread House; a quaint shop specializing in cookie cutters and other baking tools. When a good friend dies and the sheriff declares her death a suicide, Olivia doesn’t believe it. Sure her friend might have been acting strange lately, but she would never kill herself. Olivia starts poking around trying to under cover the truth about that night.

If You Love Bookstores/Libraries:
Books can be Deceiving by Jenn McKinlay
Lindsey’s adjusting to life in a small town as the Director of the public library. When her best friend’s boyfriend turns up dead, all eyes are on Beth. The couple had a huge fight about plagiarizing her children’s book manuscript. Lindsey works hard to clear her friend’s name and to bring fresh ideas into the library.
Murder in the Mystery Suite by Ellery Adams
To increase the number of bookings at the family run resort, Jane hosts a Murder and Mayhem week. It’s all fun and games, until the winner of the scavenger hunt is found murdered in his suite and the prize stolen. To make matters worse, Jane finds out that the prize wasn’t meant to be given out and the real item stolen is an invaluable artifact. Can she solve the murder quietly and regain possession of the family heirloom?
Murder is Binding by Lorna Barrett
Tricia Miles moved to Stoneham, New Hampshire where people were friendly until her mystery book store, Haven’t Got a Clue, opened. Then someone murdered the local owner of the cook book store and Tricia discovers the body. Now, all eyes are on her and Tricia herself wants answers.
Hardcover in Homicide by Kate Carlisle
Brooklyn Wainwright finds her mentor covered in blood. When she tries to help him, his last words are cryptic to say the least. A security agent protecting the rare book he was working on seems to think her capable of murder. As she works to finish the restoration of the book, she attempts to uncover the truth about Abraham’s murder.

~ Jennifer Rummel currently reading Bloom and Doom by Beverly Allen



Popular Paperbacks: Lock Up

Thu, 10/23/2014 - 07:00

According to a US Department of Justice report, 79,165 young people were incarcerated in the United States in 2010. Although these numbers show an overall decline, there are overwhelming more minority offenders in custody. Incarceration, whether in juvenile detention centers or adult correction facilities, is a major issue facing today’s teens. The 2015 YALSA Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults committee is looking for titles that reflect the experiences faced by many of the teens we serve.

Current nominations include titles from the legendary Walter Dean Myers, nonfiction memoirs and even a graphic novel adaptation of a landmark text on race and incarceration. But the committee is looking for even more nominations from teen, teachers, librarians and readers.  To be nominated, titles need to be available in paperback, not on a previous list in the last five years and be of interest to teens. Adult and young adult titles are considered, along with all genres.

Get more information on Popular Paperbacks or nominate a title for any of the 2015 selection lists, Mysteries, Books to Movies, and Narrative Non-fiction.

- Amanda Margis, currently reading Jackaby by William Ritter and listening to Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo.

Is This Just Fantasy?: Defying Genre!

Wed, 10/22/2014 - 07:00

Genre is a funny thing.  While it’s often easy–and frankly helpful– to divide novels into their neatly labeled slots based on basic characteristics such as setting and plot.  However, stories–like human beings–resist being placed into boxes and novels that blur the lines between genres consistently bring something unique to the table.

Today I wanted to highlight recent titles that experiment with two genres often perceived as polar opposites: contemporary realistic and fantasy fiction.  Frequently, such titles are classified as magical realism.  This category is fascinating and tricky to define but generally, it includes novels set in a world like ours but with certain magical elements as a natural part of that world; magical realism usually does not include world-building or explanations of its magical elements.  For a larger overview of the genre and its place in young adult fiction, I recommend this excellent post by Kelly Jensen & Kimberly Francisco over at Stacked.  For further explorations, check out Hub bloggers Julie Bartel and Alegria Barclay’s posts in memory of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, one of the authors most often identified with magical realism.

While I’m not sure that all these titles fit the generally accepted definition of magical realism, they all use strategic fantastical elements to illuminate contemporary stories about young adults’ coming of age in a world like ours.  Each title defies common genre expectations and none fit comfortably into a single category.  Instead they bend, reject, and flirt with multiple genres to create something unusual and compelling.

Afterworlds – Scott Westerfeld

In between final exams and college applications, Darcy Patel wrote a novel and sent it off to a publisher on a whim.  Now, she’s moving to New York City with an amazing book deal but without an apartment, friends, or any idea what’s waiting for her.  As Darcy navigates the thrilling and overwhelming new world of professional writing & publishing, she also attempts to ride the ecstatic highs and heart-crushing lows of falling in love for the first time.

Meanwhile, the protagonist  of her paranormal thriller, Lizzie Scofield, deals with the strange new abilities she’s gained since surviving a terrorist attack by playing dead and slipping temporarily into another reality known as the Afterworld.  Told in alternating chapters, Darcy and Lizzie’s stories intertwine as both young women venture into adulthood and face unfamiliar decisions.

This intriguing novel could be classified as contemporary fiction with an embedded paranormal thriller but I prefer to think of it as a form of metafiction; after all, it’s a story about a writer beginning to sort out her emerging identity by writing a story about a young woman doing the same–just with death gods and ghosts.

Dirty Wings – Sarah McCarry

Piano prodigy Maia lives like a princess in a tower, going through the motions of her circumscribed existence automatically–until she meets Cass, a street kid and witch with strange dreams.  While Maia can barely do a load of laundry, Cass survives with only her wits and criminal instincts.  But from their first meeting, the two young women are fascinated and compelled by each other.  When Cass helps Maia escape her stilted life and the two hit the road in a stolen convertible, their bond becomes even more intense.  But soon Cass will have to fight to keep Maia safe from both the needy but charming rock musician Jason and the strange skeletal man who haunts her dreams.

This lyrical novel could be described as urban fantasy, magical realism, or punk-rock fairy tale.  At its heart, it is the story of a passionate and life-altering friendship between two young woman searching for independence and belonging in a world.  The companion novel,  All Our Pretty Songs (Outstanding Books for The College Bound 2014), also uses a fusion of the fantastic and the realistic to tell a rich tale of friendship, love, and music.

Belzhar – Meg Wolitzer

When Jam Gallahue lost Reeve Maxfield, first boy she’d ever loved, after only forty-one days together, she was devastated.  After spending a year sunk in a deep depression, Jam is now being sent off to The Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school for “emotionally fragile teens.” To make the situation worse, she’s been signed up for Special Topics in English.  Jam doesn’t want to discuss Sylvia Plath with a group of equally broken teens; she just wants to return to a past when she and Reeve were spending free period sneaking kisses in the library stacks.

Then a journal-writing assignment allows Jam to do just that–one moment she’s beginning an entry in her Special Topics journal and the next she’s transported into a strange otherworld where she can wrap herself in Reeve’s arms again.  However, as Jam and her classmates visit the otherworld they’ve christened Belzhar, she must decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice to reclaim her loss.

Jam’s journey appears to a prime example of magical realism–a contemporary story exploring love, loss, and healing through the addition of a single surrealistic element.  However, it walks quite a tightrope between these two genres and readers will likely have differing interpretations.

Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future – A.S. King

Unlike her classmates, Glory doesn’t feel any particular sense of joy or freedom as she approaches high school graduation.  She has no plan for her next move–no idea of any future for herself, either ideal or realistic.  Then Glory and her best friend Ellie decide to drink the desiccated remains of a bat and suddenly Glory find herself bombarded by visions.  Now, when she looks at the world she sees life in triplicate–viewing each individual’s infinite past and future.

And as she tries to reconcile new revelations about her mother’s suicide over ten years ago, Glory sees a future where women’s rights are disappearing and a new civil war has broken out.   Now, Glory must work to make sense of the strange but critical connections between the past, the present, and future–for herself and the world.  A.S. King has incorporated aspects of magical realism into most of her novels with great success and her newest is no exception.

-Kelly Dickinson, currently reading The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquz

Being A Teen in the Fight Against Book Censorship

Wed, 10/22/2014 - 07:00

October is an exciting month for any YA lit fan, because it includes Teen Read Week! In honor of this annual celebration of young adult literature, YALSA invited book-loving teens all over the world to apply to share their enthusiasm for reading in a guest post for The Hub. Thirty-one talented young writers were chosen, and we’ll be featuring posts from these unique voices all month long. Here’s Abby Hendrickson from Minnesota.

When I was a freshmen in high school, a parent in my town decided that the book that we would be reading in class that year, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (which discusses sexual abuse), was explicit and therefore should be banned and removed from shelves.  Immediately English teachers and librarians were up in arms, ready to strike out the looming book censorship. They were prepared to defend the right of the students and everyone else to read freely.

Not wanting it to become a big fight, the school board quickly came to the decision that the book wouldn’t be banned but instead would be pulled from the required reading list. Under the new rules, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was kept at the school where teachers would read aloud from it only when the passages were necessary for the lesson.

Though this compromise was accepted, it was accepted begrudgingly. The librarians and teachers followed the rules that had been made to pacify parents, but they didn’t stand back and let this attempt to ban books become the new normal.

photo by flickr user martinak15

What they did in response showed me that there are ways to stand up against book banning.  My English teacher, Mrs. L, reminded my class that no one can stop us from reading freely and we were certainly able to pick up a copy and read it if we wanted. She kept a stack of books on her desk for anyone to borrow and the librarians displayed the book proudly in the media center. With my interest was piqued, I decided to snag a copy. Thanks to the efforts of the teachers and librarians, the attempt to ban the book had had the opposite effect.

That was my first time seeing book censorship in action, but reading I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings wasn’t my first time I had read a banned book. As it turned out, I had been reading banned and challenged books for a long time without even knowing it. Early in my school career I had read books like Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business, Bridge to TerabithiaCharlotte’s Web, and, of course, Harry Potter. All of them, I’ve learned, are banned or challenged somewhere in the United States.

More well loved books that join them on the list of 11,300 books that the American Library Association reports have been challenged in the last 32 years include:

  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  •  Looking for Alaska by John Green
  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
  •  Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

As I became more informed about book banning and I realized how many stories that had entertained, enchanted, and educated me in the past were being denied to other kids, I was both angered and saddened. It wasn’t fair, I decided, that because of book banning another student might never know the feeling of following Katniss and Peeta’s progress in the arena, the comfort of Laurie Halse Anderson’s words, or learn the lasting damage that abuse leaves on a person’s

By sheltering young people from the “unfit” topics in these books, book banners close doors on healthy discussion that can help kids and teens understand and think critically about the issue. Instead of fearing books about tough topics, society should be embracing them as an ideal way to bring up issues that are normally ignored.

With these thoughts in my mind, I set out to find how I could follow the example of the adults at my school and defend my freedom to read. What I learned was that teens don’t have to take this sitting down. There are ways to fight against the oppression of book censorship. Teens can:

  • Read banned books
  • Find out if your library has a program you can be a part of to bring attention to book banning
  • Participate in events like Banned Books Week (an event hosted each year in September to celebrate the freedom to read)
  • Support foundations that are involved in fighting censorship such as the National Coalition Against Censorship and the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression

Whether it be reading Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson then discussing bullying with a friend or giving someone access to a book that’s been pulled from library shelves, there’s a way for teens to stand up against book banning. I did this when I decided to read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings in ninth grade and I continue to fight by reading and discussing banned books today.

Luckily for me, my first up close encounter with book challenging wasn’t one where the book banners were truly successful. The instance set a tone for how I view book banning and always reminds me that there are victories in the battle against book banning. Teen readers are not powerless in this fight and can help show the world how literature can be a platform for starting discussion that leads to awareness and change.

Abby Hendrickson is a 16 year old book loving, iced tea drinking, social media enthusiast from Minnesota. Besides reading, her favorite activities include dancing, swimming, and marathoning shows on Netflix.