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Updated: 10 hours 30 min ago

YALSA’s 2014 Morris/Nonfiction Award Program & Presentation

Fri, 01/31/2014 - 07:00

The morning of Monday, January 28th, at the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia was filled with excitement. Right on the heels of the ALA Youth Media Awards came YALSA’s Morris/Nonfiction Program & Presentation, and the whole room was abuzz to celebrate this year’s finalists and winners of the William C. Morris YA Debut Award and the Award for Excellent in Nonfiction for Young Adults.

Emceed by YALSA President Shannon Peterson, the program began with the Morris Award winner and finalists, introduced by Dorcas Wong, 2014 Morris Award Committee Chair.

Carrie Mesrobian, author of Morris finalist Sex and Violence, gave a heartfelt speech recounting the significance of libraries in her formative years. She was an avid library user during her youth, but never interacted with librarians as a teen. Despite this, she said, “No matter that I never spoke to a single librarian, the librarians kept the shelves stocked… Librarians regularly and reliably provided me with the books I needed.” And for that, she said, she is “forever grateful.”

Evan Roskos, author of Morris finalist Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets, had everyone in stitches by observing that being honored for the Morris is a truly a once in a lifetime opportunity because, well… he can only debut once. He then told a story about how his book empowered a teen reader to get help for their mental health concerns. Of course, the inspiring nature of this anecdote turned to hilarity as he observed that “Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets actually caused someone to seek therapy.” He concluded by sharing his four-year-old son’s reaction to seeing his book cover. “Daddy, YOU wrote Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus?” This author is just as hilarious and thoughtful as his book.

Elizabeth Ross, author of Morris finalist Belle Époque opened by sharing what she called “a terrible little secret” and admitted that she was not an avid reader as a child. She went on to explain that she came to reading and writing later in the life. Before her beginning her career as a writer, she was a filmmaker– and she noted that because filmmaking is a collaborative art, the individual voice can be lost. In need of a solo creative outlet, she turned to writing. Relating her early experiences as a non-reader, she said, “Children that have some shame in regard to reading need librarians.” Librarians have the power to take away that shame.

Cat Winters, author of Morris finalist In the Shadow of Blackbirds, shared a fact that delighted me as a resident of Orange County, California– she frequented Orange County’s beachside Dana Point Library in her youth. Winters went on to discuss her love of words, and her gratitude to librarians for helping her book gain success that it did, and closed with a brief reading from her novel.

Stephanie Kuehn, author of Morris Award winner Charm & Strange started out by saying, “Being here is one of the most humbling and thrilling experiences of my life.” She talked about attending the ALA Annual Conference last summer and feeling too shy to talk about her book that had just come out– and how being quiet gave her the opportunity to observe the passionate and hard work done by librarians. Observing that it takes many people to make a book, she drew a powerful parallel between one of the prominent themes in her book- togetherness, love, and support- to the process of getting her book published and into the hands of readers.


The Morris authors were followed by Excellence in Nonfiction Award authors, introduced by Jamison Head, chair of the 2014 Nonfiction Award committee.

Chip Kidd, author of Nonfiction finalist Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design, opened with story of how an editor at Workman approached him with the idea of Go because nobody had ever done a book to teach graphic design to kids. Kidd quipped that he reacted to this suggestion with shock because he doesn’t know kids, have kids, relate to kids, or even like kids– but he said… sure! He went on to say, in all seriousness, that kids are creating graphic design already, even without a guide; once they can read and write, they’re making design. So he wanted to make kids aware of design, observing, “It’s about analyzing who you are, and how you want to represent that to the rest of the world.”

Martin Sandler, author of Nonfiction finalist Imprisoned, couldn’t be at the program in person, but Emily Easton from Walker Books for Young Readers accepted on his behalf.  Noting that he’s still producing amazing works of nonfiction at 80 years of age, she talked about his passion for the very important topic of his book, the injustice of the Japanese-American incarceration during WWII, and said that it “means the world to him” that this committee recognized him for this work.

Tanya Lee Stone, author of Nonfiction finalist Courage Has No Color, described her young self as “that kid with the pile of books coming out of the library every Saturday.” She spoke fondly of Walter Morris with whom she worked closely to tell the story of the Triple Nickles in this book, and who passed away recently. She discussed her research process for this work, which sometimes felt daunting because the story was mostly unarchived. It is her feeling that the Triple Nickles should be as well known as Tuskeegee Airmen, and hopes her book plays a part in raising awareness.

James L. Swanson, author of Nonfiction finalist The President Has Been Shot, talked about where he was when John F. Kennedy was shot. He was four years old and has no memory of it- but he did remember the neighbor girls coming over to watch funeral on television a few days later. Swanson described being mesmerized later by his mom’s “morgue” of newspaper clippings about the assassination she kept, and how this collection informed his writing of this book. He takes the position that children don’t want a sanitized version of history. They want the truth– so he wrote this book for a younger version of himself.

Neal Bascomb, author of Nonfiction Award winner The Nazi Hunters, recounted memories of gathering information for the book, and revealed that the most emotional part of the story for the Mossad agents he interviewed was the act of getting former Nazi Eichmann onto a plane to transport him from his hiding place in Argentina to Israel, where he would be brought to justice. Bascomb had the crowd riveted with this suspenseful part of the narrative. He said he admired the bravery of those who were a part of the effort to bring Eichmann to justice, and said that’s why he was compelled to tell their story– especially to young people.

The Morris/Nonfiction Program and Presentation was a highlight of my ALA Midwinter experience. If you have the opportunity to attend this program in the future, I wholeheartedly recommend it!

-Allison Tran, currently reading A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

Celebrating the Lunar New Year: Books About the Vietnamese Diaspora

Fri, 01/31/2014 - 07:00

photo by flickr user kennymatic

Chúc Mừng Năm Mới!  Or Happy Lunar New Year!  Today marks the beginning of Tết —the most important Vietnamese holiday of the year.  As the child of a Vietnamese mother and an American father, I have fond memories of this time of year.  The red envelopes full of money, the bustle of families coming together, the sticky sweet smell of incense, heaps of steaming food, all accompanied by the sound of fireworks.  Growing up mixed race, it was one of the few times a year where I got a glimpse of my mother’s culture and the lives she and my extended family once lived before the Vietnam War made refugees and immigrants of them all.  As such, Tet sometimes seemed to be both a celebration of things past as well as the hope of things better to come.  Both buoyant and bittersweet, the holiday is symbolic of the ways in which immigrant communities across America weave the old in with the new creating patterns inspired by tales of survival, loss, and the constant dreams of a better life.

As I thought about which books to include in this post, I realized I wanted to highlight books that spoke to this balance of past and present, of love and loss, of hope and despair.  All the books below explore the Vietnamese immigrant experience and will hopefully help readers get a glimpse into the lives of the people in this community.

For younger teens and tweens, two novels in verse that complement each other beautifully are Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai and All the Broken Pieces by Ann E. Burg.   Inside Out and Back Again, a National Book Award Winner, follows ten-year-old Hà  as she and her family flee from Vietnam after Saigon falls and find themselves in Alabama.  The novel unfolds in a series of vignettes that capture the beauty of Vietnam, the utter foreignness of America, and the moments of beauty in between.

Ann E. Burg’s All the Broken Pieces  (2010 Best Book for Young Adults) recounts the life of a refugee child, in this case a 12-year-old mixed race boy named Matt who after being airlifted out of Vietnam is adopted by an loving American family.  His memories of war haunt him as they do Hà  in Inside Out and Back Again, although Matt is more alone in his grief as his Vietnamese mother and brother were left behind.  He must grapple with both the loss of his family , as well as the challenges of fitting into a world that is at times hostile to his presence.  The combination of minimalist prose, strong imagery, and a compelling main character makes this a wonderful read.

For older teens and adults, there are obviously many books that deal with the Vietnam War and its aftermath.  In deciding which ones to review, I opted for three books that approach the topic from a unique standpoint, whether it be distinctive style, format, or voice.  I’ll start with GB Tran’s excellent memoir Vietnamerica.  This graphic novel explores the consequences of war and   its effect on family, identity and  memory. GB Tran was born a year after the war ended and as the youngest child had little understanding of what his parents and older siblings left behind.  The death of two of his grandparents  is a catalyst for his own transformation as he begins to delve deep into the memories and generational stories of his family.  His journey back in time plays out in vivid and unusual images that underscore the power of his narration.

Kim Thúy ’s Ru is neither poetry nor prose, memoir nor fiction,  it transcends both genre and form and is

quite simply an remarkably moving and exquisitely written account of one Vietnamese woman’s struggle  to make meaning of her past and present, while building a future for her family.  Although, the book centers on common occurrences in the immigrant experience, the language transports us into each jewel of a memory providing new insights.  A beautiful book on the power of love and the possibility of renewal.

I’ll end with my arguably my favorite memoir ever written, Andrew X. Pham’s Catfish and Mandala.  It is the story of Pham’s year-long bicycle trip throughout the world after his sister’s suicide.  His  journey  eventually takes him back to  Vietnam, a country he fled when he was 10.    Although the book can be read  in many different ways, I was drawn to Pham’s depiction of his fragmented identity and the ways in which the immigrant experience makes it difficult to define not only oneself but also what one considers to be home.

Although many of the books featured here deal with heavy topics, they all in their own way illuminate some of the aspects of Vietnamese culture that I find most beautiful and pay tribute to the struggles and universality of the immigrant experience.  I hope you enjoy  reading them as much as I did!

-Alegria Barclay, currently reading Hero by Alethea Kontis

Tweets of the Week: January 31

Fri, 01/31/2014 - 06:00

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

Contests and Giveaways

 New Releases

News and Events

Just for Fun

- Whitney Etchison, currently reading a matter of days by Amber Kizer


One Thing Leads to Another: An Interview with A.S. King

Thu, 01/30/2014 - 07:00

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

Just a week ago I was trying to describe A.S. King to a friend of mine, an adult science fiction and fantasy writer not familiar with her work but always eager to discover new authors.  I tried to describe my own first encounter with her, reading The Dust of 100 Dogs after one of my best friends suggested it, but could tell I was completely failing to convey the utter originality, the compelling absurdity of the plot, the rare collision of joyful weirdness and kinship I experienced while reading.   I scrabbled around, trying to compare Please Ignore Vera Dietz and Ask the Passengers to other comparable titles (yeah, right!); to explain how it was sort of magic realism, but sort of not; to somehow describe King’s uncompromising depictions of life, especially teen life, and how all my expectations would go sideways no matter which way I was expecting the story to turn, but how there was always hope.  I told her about the ants, and about Gerald.  And then I finally just said, you know how Vonnegut is just himself and no one else is really like him?  A. S. King is like that.  Go read everything she’s written and then come back so we can talk about it.

I kind of feel the same way about this particular interview, like I just want to get out of the way and let you have at it.  I think you’ll see why right away.

But I do want to throw out a huge thank you to A.S. King for being patient and wildly understanding, for general awesomeness, and especially for giving us a little glimpse of the rest of the iceberg.  Thank you.

Always Something There to Remind Me

Please describe your teenage self.
Confused and confident. A good athlete and talented smoker. A smart kid with D’s on her report card. An all-around walking contradiction. Mullet at times. Owned a boss Blondie t-shirt and wore Chucks with spikes screwed into the eyelets. Loved Prince.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
As a young kid, I really thought I wanted to be a heart surgeon. I have no idea why, but I was obsessed with the circulatory system. At 14, I got a glimpse of wanting to be a writer after overdosing on Paul Zindel novels, but when I told adults in my life, the suggestion that journalism was my only path to being a writer pretty much killed the idea for me. (No offense meant to journalists. It just wasn’t my bag.)

As a teenager, I had no idea what I wanted to be. I was a peer helper at school, so I was really into psychology and counseling. I wanted to help fellow students work stuff out. But I ended up going to college to be a forest ranger at first. I left that college soon after realizing I still didn’t know what I wanted to do.

Then I went to art school, which again wasn’t quite what I wanted to do but it was close. I got my degree in photography about two years before digital photography came along and made me, a darkroom printer, pretty much obsolete…which was fine because I then moved 3000 miles away and started writing novels.

What were your high school years like?
I was born and raised just outside Reading, PA. High school was interesting. I was still getting poor grades, which was a habit I’d picked up in junior high school— 7th grade when a certain teacher was particularly negative toward girls. I only managed to keep my GPA high enough to play basketball. I used to play field hockey, but my hockey coach didn’t really like me and the feeling was mutual, so I quit. Same went for band. And orchestra. I liked hanging out with the drama club students, but I had stage fright, so I was a stage hand. Like I said before, I was a peer helper, which was a group of teens who worked out of the guidance office and talked to teens about any problems they might be having.

Outside of school, I was working since I could get working papers. I started as a bus girl at a diner and moved into fast food worker and then a catering company worker and then a camp counselor (where I met my future husband who was an exchange counselor from Ireland) and then a pizza delivery driver. I loved those jobs. They got me out into the world and meeting other people.

The teachers who influenced me most positively were too late to save my grades because I’d met a few teachers early on who helped me give up on school completely. But those teachers who did influence me positively did so by letting me write my first-person-POV project story from the POV of a can of succotash, write a career paper on being a superhero, and started me writing in journals. Those three teachers saved me, really, even if they didn’t know it then. To be encouraged as a creative-yet-bored-and-underachieving student is a rare thing and it was very appreciated. I got to thank them by name when I was inducted into my high school’s academic hall of fame in 2011. (I am living proof that one can graduate in the bottom third of one’s high school class and still be inducted into the same school’s academic hall of fame.)

What were some of your passions during that time?
Much of my life revolved around smoking. I know this sounds weird, but when you are a teenage smoker, you are planning every minute and everything you do around your next cigarette. This is where I say: If you are a teen smoker and you are reading this interview, please believe me when I say that it is a lot easier to quit now while you are young than it is to quit when you are older. I regret not quitting when I was a teenager. I ended up quitting for good far too late in life and it is probably my only regret. (Seriously. I don’t even regret my few loser boyfriends because I figure they taught me something. Smoking taught me nothing.)

Anyway, I was always a lover of music. I grew up in a musical house and I was really lucky to get to a lot of jazz shows and other concerts before I ever got to high school. Music is still a large passion of mine and you’ll usually find lyrics in my books’ epigraphs because I am very inspired by the music I listen to. I’ve been a Jimi Hendrix fanatic since my sister gave me my first Hendrix album when I was 11. In my junior and senior years I really loved Bob Marley and the Wailers. I still play bass guitar and Mr. King plays drums. My kid plays a wicked good jazz saxophone and my littlest one will one day pick something up, I’m sure. We will be the family von King. I will totally sew us play clothes out of the curtains.

From the minute it came out when I was fourteen, I loved the movie Amadeus. It is still one of my all-time favorite movies and the book I am writing for 2015 has been influenced by it greatly. Outside of that, I remember no other movies from high school. I remember lying about going to the midnight movies and going out dancing at a local club instead. (Mom and Dad, if you are reading this, I’m sorry about that. I was never by myself or unsafe, but I did lie to you every single time I said I was going to the midnight movies. I think you may have known this because I never remembered the movie I’d seen the night before.) I loved older movies, really, which were only available when the TV aired them back then in my house. (We didn’t have a VCR until my junior year, or maybe my senior year.) My favorite was probably The Shining. Around my junior year, my dad and I watched Deer Hunter together and it remains one of my favorites. As do The Sound of Music and The Wizard of Oz. I think those are standards for my generation.

Though I loved basketball and I played pretty well, my only real passion at the time was getting the hell out of high school. No offense meant to the place, but it wasn’t for me. Too many boxes. Too many rumors and immature people. Too much bullshit. I just wanted out.

Would you be willing to share a difficult teen experience or challenge that you feel shaped the adult you became?
When I was fifteen, my mother became very ill one night and went to the hospital. The next morning after basketball practice, my father and I went to visit her. Something was very wrong with her, but they didn’t know what. As my father and I stood in the room, we watched her fall asleep—or so we thought. But she wasn’t sleeping. She’d died. Luckily, a nurse arrived to bring my mother some juice and behind her came a doctor who needed to see my mother right that minute, so thank the gods for them because them not arriving at that moment would have changed the ending to this story as well as my life. When the nurse couldn’t wake my mother up, she did all that stuff they do in a hospital if someone has died. Oxygen tanks. Recessed lights, the shock paddles came out and we were asked to leave the room. She was resuscitated and she is still alive and well today even though she’s pulled this dying stunt a few more times since. (See how we joke? Joking helps.) I had at least one doctor tell me she wouldn’t live another 6 months.

This was a very difficult experience because I was completely by myself, really. My dad was there, but this was his wife you know? And my sisters were older and I had to call them on the pay phone in the hall in ICU and tell them to get home ASAP and they didn’t really understand what I’d seen. I’m still not sure if they really understand it. But let me tell you: I grew up very quickly that day. Very very quickly. I changed instantly—I became… more forgiving and helpful and I hugged more often. I was scared, but I felt brave, too. From that day forward, I felt I related a little less to all those other kids in school. They were still all so concerned with the high school stuff and I was just hoping my mom would be alive when I got home or would make it to my graduation.

What about a positive experience or accomplishment that had an impact on your adult self?
Since I already mentioned my English teachers who influenced me greatly with their encouragement, I think now is the time to say that being a camp counselor was probably the coolest thing I ever did. I did it for two years and got paid peanuts and yet it didn’t matter. It was a job like no other and it taught me a lot of great skills. (For the record, if there is ever a zombie apocalypse, you want to be with me and Mr. King. Our outdoor survival skills are pretty impressive.)

And I can’t bring up being a camp counselor without saying that the impact that meeting Mr. King had on my future adult self was more than profound. I mean, wow. Meeting one’s soul mate at 17 is rare. Few adults understood it and most underestimated it. We wrote letters to each other and we talked on the phone (briefly—it was very expensive) during our four and a half years apart. When I graduated college, the first thing I did was get on a plane for Ireland and the minute we saw each other in Dublin airport, we knew we would be together forever. Having Topher in my life—even when we were apart—gave me confidence. Stopped me from going too nuts over boys and wasting my time caring about what I was wearing or how I looked. I’d already found the person who would find me beautiful for the rest of my life, you know?

So, without the sappy love part, being a camp counselor was such a cool experience, I’d do it again if I had time or they paid me enough.

What advice, if any, would you give your teen self?  Would your teen self have listened?
There is no way my teen self would listen to any advice, but I’d have told her to skip the mullet. And, as mentioned before, I’d have told her to quit smoking.

Do you have any regrets about your teen years?
I don’t really do regrets because I really believe that everything we do lands us where we are. But, since you’re asking, yeah, I wish I would have applied myself and been a kickass student. I was smart. I LOVE learning. That one teacher in  7th grade just made me so mad and no one cared that he was being such a bad teacher and my giving up on school to prove it didn’t hurt anyone but me. I would have loved to have learned calculus. And a lot more history. Mind you, all of this is great to say, but my memory skills still suck and I probably would have had to have been a different person to actually achieve this, so it’s not really a regret. It’s a wish.

What, if anything, do you miss most about that time?
Smoking. Just kidding. I miss being so in shape that I could run up nine flights of steps without being winded. (What irony here in our last answer. Which brings us back to the very first answer in this part of the interview… I’m still a walking contradiction.)

Every Day I Write the Book

Readers and reviewers have pointed out a number of recurring themes in your work: identity and self-discovery, family, choices and consequences, love.  You’ve written elsewhere that you don’t consciously write to a theme or about an issue (like bullying, sexual identity, alcoholism, etc.) but I wonder if you could talk about those themes a little bit anyway.  In some ways the themes listed above are universal, but in your books they feel specific and personal and powerful.  Any thoughts on how a theme develops, either consciously or unconsciously, in your work?
Theme doesn’t really occur to me until after the first draft is already written. I write every day without knowing what’s going to happen next, so really, the book leads me to the theme/s, not the other way around. The things my characters do and feel are very universal. You’re right about that. I think they are personal and specific to me when I write them because I affix an emotion that I have experienced onto a character’s experience. So, I know what it feels like to be embarrassed about being bullied, for example. I also know how it feels to sit at a funeral of someone who used to be a best friend, but screwed me over based on someone else’s lies. I do write personal books, but never are they true stories—rather they are true emotions superimposed onto people I have never met before, but with whom I am about to become very good friends.

I may think that a theme is developing about halfway through a book, but I don’t like to flag it for sure until I am truly done and I can get the wide story out first—because if I limit myself to that theme halfway, then I feel it will lock me in, and the last thing I want to do is give a lesson or preach, and I think locking myself into a theme halfway through would leave me open to doing this. I only tell the stories. It’s up to others to think about them and figure out what I meant. (That’s not to say I don’t know what the themes of my own books are. I do. But I layer ideas, so there are always more than one.)

Your characters are remarkable–memorable, unique and imminently relatable.  This is true of main characters like Emer/Saffron, Vera, Lucky, Astrid, and Gerald, but it’s also true of the entire population of your books, where characters like Fred Livingstone, Uncle Dave, and Ken Dietz fairly jump off the page.  Do your stories start with a character, or do they start somewhere else like a plot point or a question?  Do your characters show up fully formed, or do they reveal themselves as you write?
First: Thank you. I’m glad you feel that way about my characters and it’s nice to hear this.

My characters always come first. When I start a book, I have no idea where it will go or end or what will happen to these people I invent in my head. They are certainly not fully formed when they come to me. I often use Vera Dietz as an example of this. When, around page 11, Vera is driving to work from school and she reaches under her driver’s seat for something, I had no idea what she was reaching for. I was so surprised when my fingers typed a bottle of vodka. I remember thinking What? She’s so smart! So practical! What is she doing? Why would she do something so dumb? So risky? This is the moment when I realize that the character is about to take me on a journey…not the other way around. For what it’s worth, without tossing out a massive spoiler, I also did not know Lucky Linderman’s secret until he told me two-thirds of the way through the book. I find out when you find out—which is why I love reading. And writing.

In an interview with you for, author Paolo Bacigalupi, says that “the safe choice would have been to make this [Everybody Sees the Ants] a completely ‘realistic’ novel,” but you never seem to take the safe choice, in any of your books.  Instead, you opt for complex narrative structures (like interjecting flashbacks, changing narrators and points of view, and flow charts) and elements of surrealism or magical realism that are anything but safe, straightforward, or predictable.  Could you talk a little about the choices you make in your writing?  How do you find the narrative structure and plot elements that feel right for the story you want to tell?
It’s questions like these that make me a slightly frustrating interviewee. A lot of these elements choose me. I don’t choose them. I mean, had my dad not taught me how to flow chart as a child, I probably wouldn’t have had Ken Dietz talk in flow charts, but there you have it. The ants appeared, same as Vera’s vodka did, and then they started to talk. As for being safe, I refuse. This business is…a business. Books like mine are always going to be, how do I say this…not as popular as whatever is popular at the time? Not as financially supported as a Kardashian? You get my meaning. Why would I write any differently (and could I if I even tried?) in order to be safe? What is safe? Will safe feed my kids any better? I just don’t think it would.

And so, all I’m left with is myself.

And myself writes books like mine. If you have ever talked to me, you know I talk very much like how I write. I didn’t know this until other people told me, but apparently, you have to trust me and keep up and then whatever I am saying will lead you to the point, just like my books. So I figure if I am going to struggle through this career as I have done so far, then why the hell not just be myself?

I once saw a great interview with the Grateful Dead. The interviewer asked Jerry Garcia why they never sold out. Jerry answered something like, “We would have sold out, but nobody was buying.”

Your new book, Reality Boy, came out in October 2013.  You’ve mentioned in interviews that you aren’t really a fan of television or of celebrity culture in particular.  What inspired you to write about a former reality TV star?
I haven’t watched television in about 15 or more years. I also do not like celebrity-obsessed culture. It vexes me. I remember when Entertainment Tonight came on at first and I remember thinking then, as an eleven-year-old kid, Why would I care about the personal lives of these people? I still don’t get it—especially now, in the age of reality TV. Why do we pay attention to so many people who have no talent but to be famous? And more importantly, when it comes to the few parts of popular culture that I do see, I can’t figure out why we are essentially eating our own self-esteem. Who cares about the cellulite on female celebrities’ legs? I am disgusted by that part of my culture. I am disgusted that my daughters have to grow up in a place where they are urged to fill their gender role by buying magazines that will ultimately make them feel like shit about their own perfectly-functioning and normal bodies. Please don’t mistake this for snobbery. I totally don’t care if you or anyone else watches TV or reads celebrity magazines or not. I just can’t, personally. It’s like I’m from Jupiter or something.

Reality Boy is about Gerald Faust—a boy who was once a five-year-old reality TV “star”…if you call being a mess on TV “stardom.” Now that Gerald is a teenager, he’s suffered a lifetime of being recognized everywhere in his town, being goaded and bullied by his teachers, peers, and even his family. He is angry about everything that was once aired on TV…and beyond angry at the things that weren’t aired on TV. He’s very close to snapping until he meets the girl who works at register #1 while he works register #7 at the food stand at the local ice hockey arena. She’s the first person who treats him with any sort of respect and he’s not quite sure what to do with it.

I wrote Reality Boy after a years-long discussion with my husband about reality TV and the effect it must have on children who do not have control over whether or not their childhood becomes public property. My eventual question was: If the statistics we know regarding abuse (of any sort) of children are accurate, then isn’t it likely that at least one child we’ve seen on TV is actually being victimized as we watch them? And if so, what does that say about us?

You’ve given us a glimpse into the genesis of Reality Boy, and I’m wondering if you’d be willing to do the same with your forthcoming novel, Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future?
Glory O’Brien’s genesis is an odd one. I wrote a novel for adults back in 2006 entitled Why People Take Pictures about a woman who was neurotic about death and was going somewhat crazy as she tried to raise her three-year-old daughter and look after her ailing mother. As I started writing Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future, I realized that certain things were similar and that this was the story of that three-year-old girl who had grown into a high school senior.

The real genesis was a writing workshop I was doing with three classes of Bryan High School students in Omaha, NE. We were working on revision, but I had no piece written to revise, so while they wrote, I wrote the first page of Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future. When I read it back to them, they told me that I had to write the rest of the book. So I did.

Just Can’t Get Enough

This question comes from Maggie Stiefvater:  “You are, in fact, a critical darling. You may bluster, if you like, but we both know that critics find your novels both delightful and well-written. Quirky and profound. I’d like to know what effect that critical acclaim has on your literary choices. Do you feel it gives you freedom — a comfortable knowledge that readers will pick up your next book no matter how peculiar it might be? Or does it feel restrictive — like you can’t whip out a series of fun, pulpy thrillers under “A.S. King.” Do you feel pressured by it? The hot breath of reviewers playing round the back of your neck as you type?”

The short answer to this is: no. Maybe that makes me a weirdo, but I think it has more to do with how I started this whole journey. My first six novels were written in a vacuum—on a farm in Ireland, living off the land, not caring all that much about this life I lead now—publishers, agents, critics, awards. It sounds a bit naïve perhaps, but I found and needed writing as an escape from real life. I was struggling and I didn’t know what to do with it. So one day I sat down at a typewriter and the release was most important. Not therapy, but a need to express myself without anyone butting in and telling me how I felt or how I should feel or how my feelings were wrong, etc. Those novels (along with others) live in a drawer as a reminder of that time, and as physical proof that I am writing for myself and not for others, which is how I want to keep it.

I am modest to a fault and I was raised in an environment that constantly reminded me that I was no one special. I think that helps me stay grounded. When it comes to critics, I am, every time, honored and surprised (and relieved) that they might like what I have produced but never have those critics been allowed in my writing space. I have no idea how I do this or why. I think it’s a mix of things. 1. My very first trade review is probably the worst I’ve ever read. 2. I do not go to online writing sites to read reviews of my own books because, as my fortune cookie said once, “People are not persuaded by what we say but rather by what they understand.” 3. I do not write for other people, but rather to release characters from my head. So far, none of those characters have come out in a way that screams “fun pulpy thriller” but if one day this should happen, then I would just write it.

I reckon we get one chance to do this ride. The waiting line is long. (Or for me it was.) Now that I am on the ride, I will enjoy it and work hard. Although I may need help in the “enjoy it” department. My practical side takes over and I am sometimes not very quick to recognize that I have achieved something. I don’t take much credit for my books, personally. They come to me rather than the other way around. They are gifted to me. This may sound like cosmic mumbo jumbo, but it’s how I see things. The published critical darling, as you call me, is really the part of the iceberg one can see above the surface. But I can see what’s under the water, and it’s that chunk of ice that matters most when I write.


A.S. King is the award-winning author of acclaimed young adult books including Reality Boy, the 2012 Los Angeles Times Book Prize winner, Ask the Passengers, Everybody Sees the Ants, 2011 Michael L. Printz Honor Book Please Ignore Vera Dietz, and the upcoming Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future (October 2014.) She has been an Edgar Allen Poe Award nominee, a Nebula nominee, a Lambda Literary Award nominee and a YALSA Top Ten pick. King’s short fiction for adults has been widely published and nominated for Best New American Voices. After fifteen years living self-sufficiently and teaching literacy to adults in Ireland, she now lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and children, and teaches in the Writing for Children and Young Adults program at the Vermont College of Fine Art.

You can find her at her website, blog, Facebook page, or on Twitter.

–Julie Bartel, currently reading Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick and Doll Bones (again) by Holly Black


What Are You Reading, Kazakhstan?

Thu, 01/30/2014 - 07:00


I belong to a book club where we do a roll call to see what everyone is reading.  I am always interested to know what other people are reading or waiting to read- but just knowing what is popular in Ohio or the whole United States no longer satisfies my curiosity.  I want to know what teens are reading all over the world.

Though the nation has existed since the Neolithic Age, it just gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.  The first municipal library opened in 1910.  In 1998 the library was officially named National Library of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan has a very unique geography which includes , steppes, taiga, snow-capped mountains, and deserts. (Kazakhstan)  This diversity is reflected in its population of 16.6 million people who comprise over 130 ethnicities.

Which makes me wonder: what are all of them reading?

Thank you to Celia of Haileybury Astana who has the answers. Here’s what Celia has to say about her school: Haileybury Astana, is a private British international school with over 350 pupils from nursery up through secondary school, growing every year. The operate two libraries, one for primary students and the other for secondary students. The school is located in Astana, Kazakhstan, which is billed as the second-coldest capital in the world — so we enjoy staying indoors and reading in the winter! **All commentary here is of course my own, and is not an official statement from the school!

  • What are the most popular titles for teens at your library right now?

    Matched by Ally Condie with German cover

Right now our teens are picking up new dystopian novels like Matched Ally Condie, Divergent by Veronica Roth, and Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, but others are still reading perennial favorites like Alex Rider by Anthony Horowitz, Jacqueline Wilson’s fiction.

  • What genres are most popular with your library’s teens?

Our teens read a variety of historical, fantasy, or scary stories. Nonfiction gets a good go as well, especially in science or history, and anything in our adventure or teen relationship categories tends to go quickly!

  • In your teen collection, what languages are the books available in?

Most of our books are in English, but we have a growing collection in Russian – and we’ve even had donations of teen books in German or Kazakh! I’d love to see our pupils get the chance to read more intelligent teen fiction in Kazakh.

  • Do your teens prefer to read print novels or ebooks?

Right now, they prefer print, but many haven’t yet been introduced to ebooks – I hope to do that soon.

I hope to learn and share about teen reading around the world.  If you or someone you know lives overseas and works as a teacher or librarian with teens, please message me so I can  do a post about the country they live in.  To learn more about what other teens are reading, check out my previous posts in this series:

-Laura C. Perenic, currently reading Zoo Station : a memoir : the story of Christiane F.

Jukebooks: September Girls by Bennett Madison

Wed, 01/29/2014 - 07:59

What. A. Summer. Sam didn’t think it would pan out to much, going to the beach with his older brother, Jeff, and his newly singled Dad. But the sleepy old beach is filled with beautiful blonde girls. Usually Jeff is the guy who gets the girls. Not this summer. They all seem interested in Sam.

Madison’s novel is a combination of summer romance and paranormal horror. It also contains a portrayal of sexism that has prompted strong reader reactions. A thoughtful analysis of these issues (with SPOILERS) can be found on The Book Smugglers blog. To get a sense of the intensity surrounding the discussion, take a look at the comments on

Personally, I enjoy a good discussion on sexism. I was a teen in the 1970s, when feminism was seeping its way into the national consciousness, challenging the fairness of everything from high school sports to underwear. It’s an important issue during adolescence and early adulthood for both sexes, as awareness of one’s own sexual identity emerges. Life may alter these convictions over time, but it’s important to begin with an understanding of the insidious nature of  sexual discrimination.

Fittingly, the band, September Girls, is a five-woman band from Dublin that combines intense reverb with catchy melody. Want to hear how it’s done? Check out their video below.

-Diane Colson, currently reading The Chapel Wars by Lindsey Leavitt

Coming Soon: The 2014 Hub Reading Challenge

Wed, 01/29/2014 - 07:00

Get excited, YA lit enthusiasts! Now that the Youth Media Awards have been announced and the selected list committees are wrapping up their work, we are pleased to officially announce our 2014 Hub Reading Challenge!

When? The 2014 Hub Reading Challenge will begin at 12:01AM EST on Monday, February 3. Once the challenge starts, you’ll have about four months (until 11:59pm on Sunday, June 22) to read as many of the following as you possibly can:

If you participated in our Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge- even if you didn’t finish- you can count that reading toward your progress in The Hub Reading Challenge. Otherwise, only books that you both begin and finish within the challenge period count, so if you’ve read any of these titles before, you’ll have to re-read them to count them.

What? To complete the challenge, read or listen to 25 of the selected titles before the deadline. Everyone who completes the challenge will be invited to submit a reader response (which can be text, audio, video, graphics, or some combination) to his or her favorite (or least favorite!) challenge title, which we’ll publish here on The Hub. Additionally, everyone who completes the challenge will be entered into a random drawing to win our grand prize: a YALSA tote bag full of 2013 and 2014 YA lit titles! (If you’re a librarian or teacher, we’ll also toss in a couple of professional development titles.)

Not challenging enough, you say? For the speed readers out there, we offer this: on top of completing the challenge, you can go on to conquer it by reading all of the eligible titles.

As you read, you’ll also be earning badges that you can post on your blog or website or include in your email signature to show off how well-read you are, and if you conquer the challenge by reading all of the eligible titles, you’ll earn a super-elite badge (as well as our undying respect and awe).

How? Keep track of what you read every week and how many titles you’ve finished. Every Sunday, we’ll create a check-in post; comment on the post with what you’ve read or listened to that week (and what you thought of it!). If you’ve completed the challenge, fill out the form embedded in the post to give us your name and email address so we can contact you after the challenge is over. The challenge will run on the honor system, so be good!

Format matters, because listening can be a very different experience from reading in print, so be sure to experience challenge-eligible titles in the format in which they were honored. For example, Scowler won the Odyssey Award, which reocgnizes outstanding audiobooks, so even if you’ve already enjoyed the print version, you’ll need to listen to the audiobook to count it for this challenge. Tip: Some titles will be faster reads than others, so if you’re not sure if you can read 25 books in 20 weeks, start with quicker reads (like Quick Picks and Great Graphic Novels) first!

Who? All readers of young adult literature — teachers, librarians, publishers, booksellers, bloggers, parents, teens, anyone! — are welcome to accept our reading challenge. If you’re a librarian or teacher, consider encouraging your patrons or students to give it a try.

Any questions? Let us know in the comments or send us an email. Otherwise, we’ll see you when the challenge kicks off next Monday!

-Allison Tran, currently reading Go, by Chip Kidd

Nonfiction Ways to Enjoy National Hobby Month

Tue, 01/28/2014 - 07:00

The Hub, as you know, is your connection to teen reads. And we tend to focus on fiction. But since January is National Hobby Month, we couldn’t let the month go by without sharing some terrific nonfiction books, magazines, and websites that may encourage you to take part in various hobbies.

For journaling, scrapbooking, and generally awakening one’s creativity, it’s hard to beat Keri Smith’s Wreck This Journal. Not generally found in libraries (for obvious reasons), this book shows you that it’s OK to write in, tear pages of, and generally mutilate a book…as long as it is this book, and it belongs to you! Smith’s cheerful instructions will lead readers to get over the preciousness of their pristine journals, and to unleash the wild side of their brains by spilling coffee on pages, making art from found objects, and thoroughly engaging their creative process. Here are some great Wreck This Journal images found on Tumblr. And if you’re an app addict, catch the review of “Wreck This App,” an app based on the book, over at the YALSAblog.

Knitting is eternal. Our great grandmothers knit, and now, there people are knitting (and crocheting) amigurumi animals, Doctor Who scarves, and cell phone cases. Weekend Knitting: 50 Unique Projects by Melanie Falick and Ericka McConnell is not for the novice knitter, but if you enjoy knitting and can read patterns, this title offers inspiration, gorgeous photos, and fun projects to tackle. From mittens to washcloths to sweaters to handbags, this is not your great grandmother’s knitting book.

Maker spaces are sprouting up all over the world and encouraging people of all ages to do some DYI and make stuff. While there are plenty of DYI books in the world, you might want to consider looking at MAKE magazine for inspiration. MAKE has been around for ten years and they offer ideas, instructions, and encouragement to people who want to mess around and geek out. While 3D printing and electronic components such as the Arduino microcontroller and Raspberry Pi computer get a lot of press, MAKE doesn’t neglect more “traditional” crafts such as woodworking, papercraft, sewing, photography, and gardening. They really do have something to interest everyone.

Coding is getting a lot of press now, what with STEM initiatives and the general pervasiveness of computers in our lives. People are playing video games more than ever (Yes, even you. Have you played Candy Crush or Words With Friends? Then you’ve played a video game.) and many want to learn how to create games. Python for Kids by Jason R. Briggs, Scratch 2.0 Programming for Teens for Jerry Lee Ford, and Raspberry Pi Projects for the Evil Genius by Donald Norris are all great books that can show teens, or anyone, how to get started in programming, or in making their own computer, robot, or automated gerbil feeder. (A Raspberry Pi is a wonderfully adaptable little computer, you’d be amazed what people have done using it.)

Bead Style Magazine is constantly circulating at the library where I work, so it’s no wonder that Easy Beading, a collection of the best projects they offer, is such an attractive, smart, and helpful book. Beading seems simple on first glance – put beads on a string, done – but there are knotting techniques to learn, a myriad of fasteners to use correctly, and looping, stringing, and spacer beads to consider. If you love jewelry, and want to make some eye catching pieces using your own two hands, this book (and it’s sequels) are great resources to turn to for help and instructions.

Do I have to mention Pinterest? Would I be remiss if I didn’t? Go to Pinterest, look at all the eye popping images there and get ideas for jewelry, clothing, fine art, crafting, photography, sculpting, make-up, cooking…you name it, someone has a Pinterest board for it covered in amazing photos that will make you think “Hey! I can try that!” Just beware, Pinterest is as bad as YouTube for making you fall into a time-trap.

Exercise is another hobby many people enjoy, but there are so many exercise books out there, I wasn’t sure where to start. Help me out in the comments! What is your favorite exercise book and why?

~ Geri Diorio, currently reading Ninety Percent of Everything by Rose George

2014 Youth Media Award Winners Announced!

Mon, 01/27/2014 - 08:59

This morning, the winners and honor books for ALA’s Youth Media Awards were announced to an elated crowd in Philadelphia during ALA’s Midwinter Meeting.

Here is the list of YA titles recognized this morning (children’s books have been omitted from this list because The Hub focuses on YA lit, but be sure to find the full list of winners on ALA’s website):

Alex Award for adult books with teen appeal

  • Brewster,  written by Mark Slouka  and published by W.W. Norton & Company
  • The Death of Bees,written by Lisa O’Donnell and published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
  • Golden Boy: A Novel, written by Abigail Tarttlein and published by ATRIA Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
  • Help for the Haunted, written by John Searles and published by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
  • Lexicon: A Novel, written by Max Barry and published by The Penguin Group, Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
  • Lives of Tao, written by Wesley Chu and published by Angry Robot, a member of the Osprey Group
  • Mother, Mother: A Novel, written by Koren Zailckas and published by Crown Publishers, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc.
  • Relish, written by Lucy Knisley and published by First Second, an imprint of Roaring Brook Press, a division of Holtzbrinck Publishing Holds Limited Partnership
  • The Sea of Tranquility: A Novel, written by Katja Millay and published by ATRIA Paperback, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
  • The Universe Versus Alex Woods, written by Gavin Extence and published by Redhook Books, an imprint of Orbit, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in young adult literature

  • Markus Zusak

Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in young adult literature

  • Winner: Midwinter Blood,  written by Marcus Sedgwick and published by Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group
  • Honor: Eleanor & Park, written by Rainbow Rowell and published by St. Martin’s Griffin (Macmillan)
  • Honor: Kingdom of Little Wounds, written by Susann Cokal and published by Candlewick Press
  • Honor: Maggot Moon, written by Sally Gardner, illustrated by Julian Crouch, and published by Candlewick Press
  • Honor: Navigating Early, written by Clare Vanderpool and published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House LLC, Penguin Random House Company

Odyssey Award for outstanding audiobooks for young adults

  • Winner: Scowler, produced by Listening Library, an imprint of the Random House Audio Publishing Group; written by Daniel Kraus and narrated by Kirby Heyborne
  • Honor: Better Nate Than Ever, produced by Simon & Schuster Audio; written and narrated by Tim Federle
  • Honor: Eleanor & Park, produced by Listening Library; written by Rainbow Rowell and narrated by Rebecca Lowman and Sunil Malhotra

Schneider Family Book Award for an artistic expression of the disability experience

  • Teen winner: Rose Under Fire, written by Elizabeth Wein and published by Hyperion, an imprint of Disney Book Group

Stonewall Book Award for outstanding LGBTQ titles

  • Winner: Beautiful Music for Ugly Children, written by Kirstin Cronn-Mills and published by Flux, an imprint of Llewellyn Worldwide Ltd.
  • Winner: Fat Angie, written by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo and published by Candlewick Press
  • Honor: Better Nate Than Ever, written by Tim Federle and published Simon & Schuster Book for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division
  • Honor: Branded by the Pink Triangle, written by Ken Setterington and published by Second Story Press
  • Honor: Two Boys Kissing, written by David Levithan and published by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc.

William C. Morris Award for outstanding debut novels

  • Winner: Charm & Strange written by Stephanie Kuehn, published by St. Martin’s Griffin, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press, a division of Macmillan.
  • Finalist: Sex & Violence written by Carrie Mesrobian, published by Carolrhoda LAB, an imprint of Lerner Publishing Group.
  • Finalist: Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets written by Evan Roskos, published by Houghton Mifflin, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
  • Finalist: Belle Epoque written by Elizabeth Ross, published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books.  
  • Finalist: In the Shadow of Blackbirds written by Cat Winters, published by Amulet Books, an imprint of ABRAMS.

YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults

  • Winner: The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi written by Neal Bascomb, published by Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc.
  • Finalist: Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design written by Chip Kidd, published by Workman Publishing Company.
  • Finalist: Imprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans During World War II written by Martin W. Sandler, published by Walker Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing, Inc.
  • Finalist: Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles, America’s First Black Paratroopers written by Tanya Lee Stone, published by Candlewick Press.
  • Finalist: The President Has Been Shot! The Assassination of John F. Kennedy written by James L. Swanson, published by Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic Inc.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Mon, 01/27/2014 - 07:00

Auschwitz in 1945. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany.

Since 2005, January 27th has been designated International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On this day, the world takes time to acknowledge the millions of victims of genocide at the hands of the Nazis during World War II. Below are some books that address this difficult and important period in history.

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein - This companion to 2013 Printz Honor book Code Name Verity offers a horrific and visceral story of the Ravensbrück concentration camp. The book follows Rose, a young American pilot, who finds herself in Ravensbrück after her plane is captured by the Germans. There she meets others women who have been captured and subjected to medical experimentation. With vivid descriptions and a clear attention to historical detail, this book is a powerful read for those who want to more fully understand the Holocaust. [Edit: Earlier today, this book was awarded the 2014 Schneider Family Book Award in the teen division.]

Briar Rose by Jane Yolen - Rebecca grows up listening to her grandmother’s version of the story of Briar Rose (also known as Sleeping Beauty). But while she knows that this version is much different than that told in other families, it is not until her grandmother is dying that she begins to understand the truth of the story and the actual history of her family during World War II.

The Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow - Set in Germany at the time of Nazi rule, this book tells the story of Karl Stern, a young teen who has rarely thought much about his Jewish heritage until it suddenly becomes a reason for persecution. He jumps at the chance to learn to box from champion Max Schmeling even as the world around him continues to fall apart. This excellent historical novel was selected for the 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults list and was the Sydney Taylor Book Award Teen Readers Category gold medalist in 2012.

Branded by the Pink Triangle by Ken Setterington - This book tells the story of the individuals who were persecuted and imprisoned in concentration camps during the Holocaust due to their sexual orientation. The book combines historical research with the stories of those who lived through these events to create a complete account of this side of the Holocaust.

The Forgotten Victims of the Holocaust by Linda Jacobs Altman - This book focuses on the history of the persecution of often forgotten groups during the Holocaust. It covers the history of the Nazi persecution of people due to their racial or ethnic heritage, sexual orientation or disability and includes archival photos and suggestions for further reading.

I Have Lived a Thousand Years: Growing Up In The Holocaust by Livia Bitton-Jackson - This memoir of a girl who was 13 when the Nazis invaded her home country of Hungary and sent her to a concentration camp is a harrowing first-person account of the Holocaust. Because it is based on the experience of an actual teen, readers are sure to connect with this story and gain a new understanding of the horrors of concentration camps.

The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi by Neal Bascomb - This nonfiction work, which is a 2014 Nonfiction Award Finalist, tackles the efforts after the end of World War II to track down one of the most infamous Nazi leaders, Adolf Eichmann. The book brings this period of history alive and offers a look at the efforts to bring the Nazis to justice after the Holocaust. [Edit: Earlier today, this book won the 2014 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults.]

If you have any suggestions for additional books about the Holocaust, let us know in the comments.

- Carli Spina, currently rereading Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

The Monday Post: Most Lovable Vehicle in a YA Book

Mon, 01/27/2014 - 00:03

photo by flickr user Marten Bjork

Good morning, Hub readers!

Last week, we asked you to tell us which YALSA book award you feel most confident in predicting the winner(s).  Most of you feel like you have a good grasp on the Printz, with 31% of the vote. Tied for second with 20% of the vote each were the Alex Award and the Morris Award. You can see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive, and maybe by the time you read this, you’ll know whether or not your Youth Media Awards predictions came true. Thanks very much to all of you who voted in the poll!

This week, as many of us are at ALA Midwinter and are traveling there and back, transportation is on our minds. We want to know which vehicle in YA lit you find most lovable. Vote in the poll below, and tell us in the comments if we missed your favorite!

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

2014 Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge Final Check In

Sun, 01/26/2014 - 07:00

This is it! There are less than 24 hours until the Youth Media Awards at the American Library Association Midwinter conference. (Watch the livestream here.) Tomorrow morning at 8:00 AM Eastern, everyone will find out which book won the 2014 Morris Award and which won the 2014 Excellence in Nonfiction Award. (Among other awards.) Did you read all the nominated titles? Congratulations! Please fill out the form below and give yourself a big pat on the back. If you didn’t read as many as you hoped to, that’s OK! You can still read them after tomorrow.

And keep your eyes on The Hub where we will soon announce the 2014 Hub Reading Challenge, encompassing all of YALSA’s 2014 award winning books and finalists, as well as top ten lists, the Schneider Family Book Award and the Stonewall Book Award.
Happy Almost Youth Media Awards Day, everyone! It’s our own Librarian Oscars! Can’t wait to hear about (and read) the winners.

~Geri Diorio, currently reading Ninety Percent of Everything by Rose George

Morris Award Finalist: Sex & Violence by Carrie Mesrobian

Fri, 01/24/2014 - 07:00

Carrie Mesrobian is a finalist for the 2014 William C. Morris Award for her debut novel, Sex & Violence.  The award honors previously unpublished authors with the year’s best books for young adults.

Evan Carter has moved around from one town to another his entire teenaged life. His father, a Ph.D in math and computer science, is hired by clients all over the country and he drags Evan along. Not since Evan’s mom died when Evan was 11 has his dad really been present in Evan’s life in any sense. Evan, nearly 18, is used to his dad’s distance because he’s got other preoccupations – girls. Even though he might be the new guy at all his schools, he’s never had any trouble meeting and hooking up with them. He even has a strategy and can profile a girl as “The Girl Who Would Say Yes.” That’s worked well for him until he hooks up with the wrong girl named Collette at his Charlotte, NC school and finds himself nearly killed after her ex-boyfriend and another guy savagely assault him in the school’s communal showers. Afterward, Evan and his father move to the family lake in rural Pearl Lake, Minnesota so Evan can recover from a multitude of injuries, including a broken nose & ribs, hearing loss in his left ear and the removal of his ruptured spleen.

During the spring and summer at the lake he has the chance to hang out with other local teens his age. They are celebrating their last summer before college doing “last things” they haven’t done before. Evan tries to fit in with them and pretend everything’s okay but he’s quiet and withdrawn and is suffering from PTSD. Therapy helps but he’s still unable to shower inside so the lake becomes his nightly bathtub. He’s also obsessed with having short hair since when he was beaten up it was long and easy for his attackers to grab.

Evan narrates his story in the first person and it’s through the letters he writes but doesn’t send that we get a sense of what’s he’s really like. He writes to Collette that he knows that he’s been “a dick” and “a slutty seventeen-year-old” who didn’t care what it cost others – especially her – until it cost him something – and that’s a key to the book’s title. Given the subject matter, you’d think the book would be grim and depressing but there’s also a lot of humor in Evan’s self reflection too. He’s spent so much time with girls he knows them and his observations about them are wryly funny – as are some of the situations he finds himself in  – such as his hilarious attempt to install a lock on the bathroom door.

He becomes interested in his cute next-door neighbor Baker, despite the fact she has a boyfriend. She’s not like the other girls he’s known and has a mind of her own. By getting to know her she helps Evan begin to understand what having an emotional relationship with another person means. Some of what Evan learns about his father, mother and uncle also give the reader more insight into what’s shaped him. He also gets involved with another girl who has a boyfriend with a bad temper. Will he find himself in the same situation as before? Can Evan learn to make a real connection with a girl and really get to know her before sleeping with her?

The story’s plot meanders a bit and the ending was a bit rushed but it’s still a compelling read. The fact that Evan doesn’t have all the answers but realizes he can and wants to change even if there’s no guarantee that it will be a quick or easy process is what made the book feel real to me. That and Evan’s character. Despite his behavior, Evan isn’t a bad guy, but a typical teen guy who thinks about sex a lot and acts upon it maybe more than most.  Kudos to Mesrobian for getting into a guy’s head as well as she does. If you want to know more about the author, see Hub blogger Molly Wetta’s interview with Mesrobian from December 19th.

-Sharon Rawlins, currently reading Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos


Nonfiction Award Finalist: The President Has Been Shot by James Swanson

Fri, 01/24/2014 - 07:00

James Swanson, author of the highly acclaimed Chasing Lincoln’s Killer, has done it again with this gripping account of another assassination that also altered the trajectory of history and changed America forever.

Swanson presents the assassination of President John F. Kennedy to young readers in this 2014 Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults finalist a way that is accessible but never condescending. The first part of the book is called “Introduction to John F. Kennedy,” and that is exactly what it provides—a brief outline of Kennedy’s life, the circumstances of his election, and his major accomplishments in office. This section portrays Kennedy in a mostly positive light, perhaps glossing over some of his personal flaws, but in this particular book, I think that decision works. It is not a biography, and readers do not necessarily need to know all the lurid details of Kennedy’s personal life to understand the kind of leader he was and what he represented to the American people. The other thing the book does exceptionally well in those initial chapters is to build a historical context for the events. Swanson condenses the complex climate of world affairs in the early sixties into a few succinct pages, helping readers understand the times without bogging down the narrative in a glut of unnecessary information.

What follows is a painstakingly researched and richly detailed account of the assassination and its aftermath. We are introduced to Lee Harvey Oswald, a lifelong loser with delusions of grandeur who decides—on a whim, and probably for no better reason than frustration with his own insignificance—to kill the President of the United States. We see the series of extraordinary coincidences in the days leading up to November 22, 1963 that made the unthinkable possible.  We experience, minute by minute, the assassination itself and the events that followed—the search for the killer, the long journey back to Washington, and the first lady’s preparations for the funeral of the century as a family and a nation grieved. One of my favorite aspects of the book was its portrayal of Jackie Kennedy and the grace and strength she displayed in the face of tragedy.  The book ends as it began, returning the focus from Kennedy’s death to his life.

To say that The President Has Been Shot reads like a novel does not really do it justice. I have never been one of those people who is particularly fascinated with the Kennedy assassination, but this book completely sucked me in. I feverishly flipped the pages like I was reading a fast-paced crime thriller. I shed tears a couple of times, over events that took place twenty years before I was born. This book holds its own with anything for any age group I have read on the subject. No matter how much you think you know about the Kennedy assassination, you will learn something. I drove my husband crazy when I was reading it because kept interrupting whatever he was doing to say, “Hey, did you know…?”

The visual layout of the book also enhances its appeal. The ample photographs bring history to life, including still frames from the Zapruder film that break down the assassination second by second. Original diagrams, some of them also based on the Zapruder film, help readers to visualize Dealy plaza. Over fifty pages of back matter support the text.

This book should find an audience with readers of all ages, whether they are researching the Kennedy assassination or just looking for a good read.

–Wendy Daughdrill, currently reading One Year in Coal Harbor by Polly Horvath

Tweets of the Week: January 24

Fri, 01/24/2014 - 07:00

Here are some bookish news, you might have missed this week





Librarianship and Programming:

Just for Fun:

~ Jennifer Rummel currently reading Summer State of Mind by Jen Calonita

What Would They Read?: Glee

Thu, 01/23/2014 - 07:00

Glee is a wonderful show that comprises a plethora of teen issues portrayed in both dramatic and comedic ways.  I’ve watched the show for years, but there is one thing that has always bothered me.  Why don’t any of the Glee kids read?  There is not one member who discusses a favorite book comments on what he or she is currently reading.  One of the few times the library gets any attention is when a small group of the Glee members sing M.C. Hammer’s “You Can’t Touch This” in the library in hopes of getting into trouble.  Sure, Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight Saga” is mentioned, but only in reference to Tina’s clothes and Principle Figgins’s fear of vampires.  So I’ve decided to take it upon myself to educate the Glee club on books.  They’ve been taught about acting, dental hygiene, Spanish, and several other topics.  It’s about time that they opened a book.

Finn Hudson – I understand that due to devastating real-life circumstances (the tragic death of actor Cory Monteith), Finn is no longer on the show.  However, I would still like to include the character in this experiment of Reader’s Advisory because the character is still important to the show.  Finn is an interesting character to analyze.  He was the first of the jock/popular crowd to join the Glee club.  While at first, viewers may see him as a dumb jock, a deeper, more thoughtful Finn has been revealed over the course of the show.  I would recommend Knights of Hill Country by Tim Tharp.  The plot of this title can be compared to the relationship between Finn and Rachel.  Knights of Hill Country tells the story of a football hero, Hampton, who begins to see more than the football in a town that eats, sleeps, and breathes football.  He begins to notice Sara, a girl who usually would not speak to and would definitely not consider dating.  Knights of Hill Country is a thought-provoking story about creating your own identity instead of living the character created by others.  The death of his father has always been something on Finn’s mind.  He might be interested in reading a book about war and the effect it has on those left at home.  For a fiction title, I would recommend Personal Effects by E.M. Kokie, which discusses a teen whose brother died in Iraq.  If Finn preferred something from the non-fiction shelf, I would give him Ghosts of War: The True Story of a 19-year-old GI by Ryan Smithson.  In Ghosts of War, Smithson talks about his experiences in Iraq.

Rachel  Berry – Rachel is probably one of the easiest to read when it comes to book recommendations.  Rachel wears her opinions and interests on her sleeve.  Anything involving becoming a star on Broadway would definitely be a contender.  Dramarama by E. Lockhart is one of the first books that come to my mind.  In fact, I can see Rachel and Kurt passing this back and forth as it would appeal greatly to each of them.  Dramarama  (2008 Best Books for Young Adults) is the story of two friends who were accepted to Wildewood Academy for a summer of performing arts classes.  The characters of Sadye and Demi are very similar to Rachel and Kurt which would allow them to identify with the story.  Keeping with the E. Lockhart recommendations, I would also give her 2009 Printz Honor book, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau- BanksIt’s true that is does not include singing and theater, Rachel’s passions, I do believe that she would truly enjoy the character of Frankie.  Rachel would admire Frankie’s determination as she often uses a high level of resolve to accomplish her goals as well.  While most of Jen Calonita’s series, “Secrets of my Hollywood Life” take place in California, there is one title, Secrets of my Hollywood Life: Broadway Lights, that takes Kaitlin to New York to perform on the stage rather than in front of a camera.  In addition to all the fiction titles, I’m sure Rachel would also fill her bookshelf with biographies of past Broadway stars such as Barbara Streisand, Liza Minnelli, and Patty LuPone.

Quinn Fabrey – Quinn was known in McKinley High as the head cheerleader and the girl who got pregnant.  Quinn had to make a difficult decision in regards to her pregnancy.  Dancing Naked by Shelley Hrdlitschka would be my first choice for Quinn.  The plot mirrors Quinn’s life in that the main character, Kia, loses her virginity to a popular bad boy at school.  After she discovers she is pregnant, Kia must make difficult decisions.  Also, Kia and Quinn experience similar circumstances in which they uncover who their true friends really are.  The Pregnancy Project by Gaby Rodriguez (2013 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Readers) is a great non-fiction choice about a girl who fakes being pregnant to see how her high school life would change.  Quinn could relate to this situation and compare her own experiences with Rodriguez’s story.  Finally, I’m sure Quinn would like a more upbeat choice as well.  How (not) to Find a Boyfriend by Allyson Valentine is the story of a popular cheerleader, Nora, who falls for the smartypants new student Adam.  Nora was trying to hide her intelligence in order to be viewed as popular, but is now reconsidering her choice in order to get close to Adam.  Quinn could find common ground with Nora as she proved to secretly be a good student by getting into Yale.  Finally, I would recommend Zombie Blondes by Brian James which is a story of a town in which all the cheerleaders look the same and act like mindless zombies.  This choice has no bearing on Quinn’s behavior, but I do believe she would find it enjoyable.


That’s it for the first installment of “What Would They Read?: Glee.”  Check out next month when I choose a few more crooners and recommend more titles.

-Brandi Smits, currently reading Unbreakable by Kami Garcia

Morris Award Finalist: In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

Thu, 01/23/2014 - 07:00

In 1918, in the heart of World War I and the influenza epidemic, sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black finds herself living in San Diego in the care of her widowed aunt, a woman only ten years her senior. All around her, the world is responding to the tragedies occurring overseas and at home by seeking answers in the paranormal. Mary Shelley, a scientist and skeptic, does not buy into the concept of “spirit photographers” and seances, believing that these are ways for people to take advantage of the grief of others. However, a personal loss leaves her with experiences that cannot be explained through her normal scientific mind.

In the Shadow of Blackbirds is Cat Winters’ debut novel. It is historical fiction built on an intriguing tale that is part mystery, part ghost story. The book is full of beautiful prose with vivid descriptions. As I read, I felt as if I could taste, see, and feel the scenes playing out on the pages. With the theme of spirit photography running through the plot, Winters’ storytelling mimics the creepy, yet beautiful feel of this art. While many novels use World War I as a backdrop, Winters has added a layer of threat by placing her characters in the middle of the influenza epidemic. Mary Shelley’s world is a very real, very frightening one. Far from the battlefields, she has to arm herself with a gauze mask before leaving her home. With doors and windows kept shut tight, her world is both literally and figuratively stifling.

Mary Shelley serves as a strong female lead with a fascinating perspective. She has a strong scientific mind and views the world through a critical eye. As the daughter of a deceased female doctor- an unusual profession for a woman at this time- and a a war critic under arrest for suspicion of being a traitor, she believes in the importance of questioning everything and standing up for what she believes. All of this creates a strong contrast of scientific exploration and spiritualism. She is a woman of science who cannot deny the otherworldly experiences that are occurring.

I found In the Shadow of Blackbirds to be a unique story, but it has many of the themes common to YA. There is a love story there, although it is rather non-traditional. Much of the story focuses on Mary Shelley’s affections for a childhood friend turned love, Stephen, who enlisted and was shipped off to France months earlier. It is her concern for Stephen that leads to her paranormal explorations. This relationship also highlights the coming-of-age theme within the book: Mary Shelley is faced with the reality that her childhood friend has made a very adult decision with very serious consequences. The importance of family plays out through Mary Shelley’s concern for her aunt’s well-being, as well as the fate of her father. Though deceased, her mother’s life had a big impact on Mary Shelley and has shaped the young woman that she is, as well.

While the themes and setting on In the Shadow of Blackbirds seem quite heavy, Winters’ writing is lovely and makes for a very easy read. I was sad to see it end and have found myself recommending it a number of times since I finished reading. I look forward to reading her next novel, The Cure of Dreaming, scheduled to be released in fall of this year.

- Jessica Lind, currently reading Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Gearing up for the YMAs: a group post

Thu, 01/23/2014 - 07:00

Are you ready? The ALA Youth Media Awards will be presented in Philadelphia at the ALA Midwinter Meeting on Monday, January 27, starting at 8 am Eastern! With this exciting event just around the corner, the Hub bloggers thought it would be fun to share how we celebrate these prestigious awards.

Mia Cabana: This year I am getting ready for the YMAs by helping some friends (Lori Ess and Betsy Bird) make graphs and charts for the live YMA pre-show they will be hosting through School Library Journal.

Cara Land: The past few years I’ve been at the ALA Midwinter Meeting, so I try to always attend the awards ceremony in person. There’s something really exciting about actually being there when you can be. In the past I’ve tried to livetweet the event, but my fingers aren’t nimble enough to catch all the honorees and I get way too distracted amidst the cheering!

Becky O’Neil: Last year was the first time I did two new things: watched the livestream and watched Twitter. It was so fun! I had a couple co-workers with me, and we were geeking out over both. It was fun to watch some of the tweets actually get ahead of the livestream, and send out our own excited tweets, feeling like we were part of the fun, even from a library workroom in Ohio. :)

Sharon Rawlins: For the past 10 years I’ve been lucky enough to actually be at the awards in person – sometimes as part of an award committee sitting in the front – and in-between committees – in the audience. Either way, being there in person is an amazing and unforgettable experience. But, if I wasn’t able to be there live, the next best thing would be to watch the livestream of the event. Since I’m the only youth services person in my department, I would go to another library where there’s a group of youth services librarians just as interested in the event as I am and make a party of it! I try to tweet the winners as they are announced and afterward, frantically ILL any of the winners I haven’t read (usually more than I’d like).

Jennifer Rummel: I love how it’s one big book party. I watch the livestream and then broadcast the news live via our library Twitter feed, and this year I’ll add a post afterwards to our Facebook page.

Join in: Please comment and tell us how you celebrate!

~ Jennifer Rummel, currently Reading Murder with Ganache by Lucy Burdette

Morris Award Finalist: Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn

Wed, 01/22/2014 - 07:00

Stephanie Kuehn is a finalist for the 2014 William C. Morris Award with her debut novel, Charm & Strange.  The award honors previously unpublished authors with the year’s best books for young adults.

This story is about the struggle of Andrew Winston Winters and will keep you guessing to the end.  We know his family suffered a tragedy and that he was somehow involved.  His brother and sister are dead and he was shipped off to a boarding school.  Before the traumatic event he was known as Drew.  After that he goes by his middle name, Win.  Win excels in science.  The title gets its name from both the names of quarks and how people see Win.  Some find him charming, but most will agree he is strange.

The story is told in alternating chapters in the present and the past.  The present is “matter” and the past is “anti-matter.”  Kuehn does an excellent job weaving the details of Win’s current war within himself while giving us clues to his past.  Win has some serious anger issues and is prone to violence.  In one instance, he takes it out on a boy who beats him at tennis.  Win’s family is full of secrets that will have the reader wondering whether they have supernatural powers or issues with abuse.  Win has problems with his roommate.  Kuehn weaves the details of their relationship as she develops both characters.

It is too simple to call this a werewolf book.  The book is beautifully written.  I read through the book quickly because I had to know what happens next.  Readers who like more cerebral supernatural fantasy will eat this one up.

-Kris Hickey, currently reading Labor Day by Joyce Maynard