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Your Connection to Teen Reads
Updated: 6 hours 5 min ago

The Effect of YA on My Generation

Mon, 10/06/2014 - 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 Brunn from Georgia.

photo by flickr user chillmimi

Teenage years. Arguably the most pivotal time in a person’s life. Full of confusion, expectations, excitement, love, friendship, anger, sadness, happiness, success, discipline, adventure, craziness, and wonder.

A time of so many emotions and experiences. A time of vulnerability.

A time in which any wisdom and understanding on the purpose of life and its trials is welcomed with open arms.

Young-adult (YA) literature, especially in recent years, has been a shelter for its readers, especially those at a growing adolescent age. It has become a source of wisdom and a source of light, giving teenage (as well as adult) readers advice on how to handle the confusing yet beautiful moments that life throws at you. Call it cliche, but it’s true.

Life is horribly difficult and blissfully wonderful at the same time. YA literature allows its readers to experience both sides and helps them cope with the good and bad while also giving them a sense of comfort, showing them that they are not alone. It serves as a teacher; a mentor that introduces morals and advice disguised by plots and characters.

And it teaches willing students. Around the globe, YA has been on the rise. Need proof? You need only go to the nearest bookstore to find that many YA books have graced the front shelves alongside the bestsellers. Oh wait… that’s because they are some of the best sellers.

But why?

Why would a story about a teenage girl in a car accident be among the most famous books of the moment? Why would a tale of a boy in the center of a maze be given honors and awards from around the globe? Why would someone really care about a novel that talks about a few friends’ boarding school experience together?

It’s actually quite simple. If I Stay by Gayle Forman, The Maze Runner by James Dashner, and Looking for Alaska by John Green all share something in common, along with millions of other YA books. Actually, they share many things, despite their differences in plots.

They all have a moral. They all offer advice. They all are relevant to everyday struggles.

They all leave an impact on their readers. Readers who read the story to be more than just words on a page or an assignment given to them by a literature class at school.

YA literature betters her readers by giving them wisdom and enlightenment about life as the stories progress, and even after they end.

It changes today’s society.

It changes today’s community.

YA literature changes my generation.

YA teaches its readers to value relationships and precious moments. If I Stay does exactly that. By exposing readers to tragedy, the book makes readers think further about the characters in the book and how they must deal with the struggle at hand; it provides answers and inspiration about how to make the most of every moment in the face of both happiness and heartbreak.

Not only does it create a respect for the characters in the book, but it also deepens one’s love and appreciation for their own family members. This is indeed an effect of YA literature- a deepened love and appreciation for the relationships around the reader outside of the book, away from the plots and characters in the pages read. It is very important that this be instilled in the minds of people, teenagers especially, because it is a life lesson that, unless understood before hand, may only expose itself until it’s too late.

YA also encourages its readers to think and use their minds.

Not just to develop knowledge from understanding more vocabulary and context which comes from reading any book, but it also forces its readers to problem solve and come up with ways to solve tasks at hand. In The Maze Runner, the protagonist, Thomas, must escape from the center of a maze. He has to work day and night, in dangerous conditions, in order to make it out. He has to think.


And it tells readers to break barriers, which is an incredibly strong message in this day and age. Though society often likes to confine people from presenting their ideas and visions, YA thinks differently. Thomas must find a way to escape the maze, regardless of the barricades in front of him- the physical struggle to get out, his peers that tell him he won’t be able to do it, and the government that is literally holding him back.

YA allows its readers to understand that it is necessary to stand up and break free of the barriers holding its generation, along with others, back.

One of the areas in which my generation needs to improve is that of self love. In the modern world, men and women are told that they aren’t good enough for various reasons- maybe because of height, gender, weight, skin color, nationality, religious beliefs, and so on.

Looking for Alaska is a great example of a story about a beautiful, powerful girl who throws everything away because she does not love herself. John Green makes sure to present this as a negative personality trait. (SPOILER ALERT) Alaska’s self hate ends up being her destruction, which is crucial for readers to understand. YA has an effect on my generation in the sense that it makes the reader value him/herself more. That alone could greatly improve the current young adult generation- by increasing one’s individual value, a value of a community is increased.

In short, there are endless ways in which YA improves its people, its readers, its generation. It is impossible to talk about all in such a short period of time. But YA has an effect; it is evident in the everyday lives of the generation that listens to its stories.

Abby Brunn lives in south Georgia (in the heat!). When she isn’t writing or reading, she is spending time with her family, taking pictures, or playing tennis or various sports.

Audiobooks: Fact and Fiction

Mon, 10/06/2014 - 07:00

photo by flickr user dano

I wish I could be reading constantly.  I really don’t think I’m the only one that feels this way. Audiobooks have helped me out with this a lot. Three years ago, I associated audiobooks with being forced to listen to a boring biography of Walt Disney on a road trip that took about 200 hours, not to mention about 200 cassette tapes. But, when I started grad school I drove forty-five minutes one way for school and thirty-five minutes the other way for work, and it was putting a serious dent in my reading time. When I rediscovered audiobooks, my number of books read per year easily doubled and I was hooked. Now I will talk about audiobooks with anyone who will listen (pun intended).  If audiobooks strike fear in your heart too, keep reading, and you might want to give them another chance.

  1. Fiction: Audiobooks are outdated and expensive.
    Fact: Audiobooks are up and coming and affordable (or free!)

    While it is true that purchasing audiobooks on CD can still set you back around fifty dollars, digital audiobook downloads usually cost about the same as a digital music CD download.  And of course, most libraries circulate audiobooks on CD and for downloading straight to your smartphone for free.

  2. Fiction: You do not have time for audiobooks.
    Fact: You wouldn’t believe the time you have for audiobooks!

    Very rarely do I sit down on my couch, crank up the audiobook, and stare into space awkwardly (maybe if I’m really sleepy). Usually I listen to my audiobook when I’m driving, cleaning, cooking, knitting, crafting, standing in line, etc. etc.  If you are a really avid reader, I think it’s safe to say that you have been cleaning your bathroom and wishing you could be reading instead.  Or maybe you love crafting but find that your crafting hobby is seriously cutting into your reading time. Perhaps your local librarian has given you a talking-to about not taking new hardbacks into the bubble bath with you. Just download the book on your phone, and set it atop the toilet!

  3. Fiction: Audiobooks are ONLY books.
    Fact: Audiobooks have special features!

    Kind of like DVDs, some audiobooks come with extras that you can’t find in the print book. For example, at the end of the audio version of Libba Bray’s A Great and Terrible Beauty, the author gives an interview about the process of writing her other novel, Beauty Queens. Maggie Stiefvater composes and performs music to pair with her audiobooks.  Sometimes a song might feature prominently in book.  For example, in Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl’s Beautiful Creatures, a song called “Sixteen Moons” mysteriously appears on the main character’s iPod. Audiobook listeners hear the song instead of just reading it. Actually hearing the haunting music makes the story all the more intriguing.

  4. Fiction: Audiobooks will come between you and the characters.
    Fact: A good narrator will bring you closer to the characters.

    Sometimes, as readers, we feel possessive of the way we imagine characters.  While it is true that a bad audio narrator may keep you from liking a character, a good audio narrator can show you their essence.  Good narrators who have made a real effort to understand their character, to consider their past and their current circumstances, and, most importantly to empathize with their joys and sorrows can make a character come to life.  This can make you feel as if the character is speaking directly to you as a confidante, as if you are important enough to hear all their secrets.  If you don’t believe me listen to Rebecca Lowman and Sunil Malhotra read the title roles in Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park (2014 Odyssey Honor).

  5. Fiction: Audiobooks are not “real reading.”
    Fact: “Real reading” lies in the eyes and ears of the reader.

    It is 2014. Readers are exceedingly fortunate to have access to various formats. Just as there are different learning styles, there are also different reading styles.  Those that respect the right to read should also respect the right to read what and how the reader chooses.

With that in mind, go forth and listen! Here are some recommendations to get you started:

  • If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan, read by Negin Farsad (2014 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)
  • Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan, read by MacLeod Andrews and Nick Podhel (2011 Odyssey Honor)
  • The Host by Stephenie Meyer, read by Kate Reading
  • The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, read by Will Patton
  • Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer, read by Jorjeana Marie

-Emily Childress-Campbell, currently listening to Wildlife by Fiona Wood

The Monday Poll: Football Books for Football Season

Mon, 10/06/2014 - 00:03

photo by flickr user familymwr

Good morning, Hub readers!

Last week, in the spirit of entering the Halloween season, we asked which evil leader in YA lit you most love to hate. Professor Umbridge from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books won by a landslide, with 54% of the vote, followed by President Snow from The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, with 23%. You can see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive. Thanks to all of you who voted!

This week, we’re turning our attention to another aspect of Fall: football season! A couple weeks ago, Hub blogger Jennifer Rummel highlighted some terrific football books, so now that we’re further into the season, we want to know about your personal favorite YA book featuring football. 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.



Tweets of the Week: October 3rd

Fri, 10/03/2014 - 07:00

Even if you’re a Twitter junkie, you’re bound to have missed some of these great tweets!


Just for Fun



-Molly Wetta, currently reading The Darkest Path of the Forest by Holly Black

Find a New Favorite Female Comic Artist or Graphic Novelist

Fri, 10/03/2014 - 07:00

As a big fan of graphic novels and comics, I read across many genres from superhero comics to nonfiction to humor and beyond. While I love the work of many different authors, today I want to highlight some of the best work from female artists who create comics and graphic novels. The list below includes some books I have read and some I can’t wait to read, but they are all written or drawn (or both!) by women who are among the best in the field.

Japan Ai by Aimee Major Steinberger (2009 Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens, 2009 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults, 2009 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers - This book, drawn in Manga style, chronicles Aimee’s trip to Japan, where she immerses herself in Japan’s particular cuteness. More of a journal than a traditional comic, this is fun book that will leave you dreaming of a trip to Japan.

An Age of License by Lucy Knisley – One of my most anticipated books of the season, this is Knisley’s memoir of her recent European book tour. Though this book is sure to be great, I could just as easily have put any of Knisley’s other books, such as French Milk, Relish, or the upcoming Displacement, on the list. I recommend reading them all!

Tomboy by Liz Prince – This new book from Liz Prince, her first classified as YA, tells the story of her childhood as a tomboy who was teased, bullied, and pressured by those around her because she wasn’t traditionally girly. A great read for those who were tomboys and those who simply love great graphic novel memoirs.

How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less by Sarah Glidden – When offered a chance to take an all-expense-paid “birthright” trip to Israel, Glidden jumped at the chance to learn more about this part of the world. In this memoir, she talks honestly about her conflicted feelings about the region and the way that she changed over the course of the trip.

Persepolis Vol. 1 & Vol. 2 by Marjane Satrapi (Best Books for Young Adults 2004 & 2005, 2004 Alex Award, 2007 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults) - Told in two volumes, this book offers a personal insight into Iran during the Islamic Revolution from the point of view of Satrapi, who grew up there. It is a powerful story of how rapid change came to the country and impacted the lives of everyone who lived there.

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki – Following two young friends, Rosie and Windy, while they are at the beach with their families for the summer, this book is a coming-of-age story as well as a family drama. It tackles the topics of growing apart from friends and dealing with parental conflict. All kinds of readers are sure to relate to the themes Tamaki touches on here.

Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge (2012 Great Graphic Novels for Teens) - When Paige Turner’s family moves to New York, she begins keeping a sketchbook to track her transition and to help her to find herself in the new city. This conceit allows Gulledge to tell an entertaining story of friendships in high school and also reflect on growing up as an artist. It also allows her to take more risks with the artwork in the book, including drawings that go beyond the average graphic novel.

Jane, the Fox and Me by Fanny Britt with illustrations by Isabelle Arsenault – Dealing with bullying, depression, friendship, and the importance of a life of the imagination, this book is not exactly a traditional graphic novel, being presented more as a picture book in some ways. It follows Hélène as she deals with her status as an inexplicable outcast at her school where her former friends have suddenly turned against her. It is a beautiful and ultimately hopeful book about difficult issues.

Zombies Calling by Faith Erin Hicks – Hicks is another example of an author so prolific that I could have included several different books from her, but this one is a fun story of a zombie attack on a college campus and is perfect for fans of zombies. Once you’ve finished this one, be sure to move on to one of Hicks’ other books, such as The Adventures of Superhero Girl, which won a 2014 Eisner Award. Also, be sure to keep an eye out for her upcoming collaboration with Rainbow Rowell. I know I can’t wait for it!

Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis with illustrations by Brooke Allen – Following five friends as they spend the summer at scout camp and fight monsters along the way, this book includes mystery, yetis, and all the fun you remember from your time at summer camp! This series is sure to put a smile on anyone’s face.

Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol – Anya is on the lookout for a best friend, so when she stumbles upon a ghost down a well, she doesn’t really question their friendship. But, maybe she should have. This book is the perfect combination of fun, creepiness, and suspense, so it makes sense that it won so many awards, including an Eisner Award.

Foiled by Jane Yolen with illustrations by Mike Cavallaro (2011 Great Graphic Novels for Teens) - Aliera Carstairs is a champion fencer, but she isn’t quite that confident at high school. However, when her mom buys her a new fencing foil, all her priorities may change as she gets drawn into a fantastical world which somehow involves the new boy from her biology class. Once you have torn through this fun and exciting fantasy, be sure to check out the sequel, Curses! Foiled Again.

Science Fiction
A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle and illustrated and adapted as a graphic novel by Hope Larson – This new adaptation of L’Engle’s classic science fiction novel will bring the book alive for a new audience with Hope Larson’s beautiful illustrations. This adaptation will keep fans of the original book engaged and entertained, but is also completely accessible to those who have never read a Wrinkle In Time.

Robot Dreams by Sara Varon (2008 Great Graphic Novels for Teens) - This bittersweet tale of the friendship between a robot and a dog is told almost entirely without words. Despite this approach, Varon successfully conveys not only the point of her story but more importantly the emotions. A great story of the importance of loyalty and regrets that can result from friendship.

Brain Camp by Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan with illustrations by Faith Erin Hicks (2011 Great Graphic Novels for Teens) - When Jenna and Lucas are asked to attend an invitation-only summer camp, it seems a little bit too good to be true. As they adjust to life at the camp, they realize that this might be because there is something sinister going on at this seemingly idyllic camp. This one is perfect for fans of both science fiction and horror.

Birds of Prey, Vol. 1: Of Like Minds by Gail Simone with illustrations by Ed Benes – With her long and illustrious career that includes stories for Red Sonja, Batgirl, Tomb Raider, Secret Six, and Wonder Woman (to name just a few), it was hard to choose which of Simone’s works to include, but since I have a soft spot for Oracle, I went with one of her Birds of Prey books, which follows them as they battle Savant. A great book that highlights some great female superheroes.

Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson with illustrations by Adrian Alphona – When Kamala Khan took over as Ms. Marvel in this story written by Wilson, she became the first Muslim character to headline a Marvel book. But, apart from this, the new Ms. Marvel is also an exciting and entertaining read that fans of superheroes will love.

Captain Marvel, Vol. 1: Pursuit of Flight by Kelly Sue DeConnick with illustrations by Emma Rios, Dexter Soy, and Ed McGuinness – When Carol Danvers, the former Ms. Marvel, assumed the title of Captain Marvel, DeConnick was the one to illustrate the story. This book, which sees Captain Marvel traveling back in time to World War II, is a great introduction to the character even if you have never heard of Carol Danvers before.

This list is far from exhaustive and I can’t wait to find new books to read, so let me know of your favorites in the comments below!

- Carli Spina, currently reading In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang

Getting Over a Fictional Death

Fri, 10/03/2014 - 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 Zeinab Hussen from Minnesota.

You pick up a book, then read the book. Spend hours upon hours flipping through pages and finishing chapters, while divulging yourself into the story. You end up getting emotionally invested and attached to a character…only to find out that the author kills them off.

Paired along with your shocking discovery, an intense emotion of despair soon follows.

You may look like this:


Or like this:

Or even this:

Don’t worry, all of those reactions are normal. But, I’ll be the first to admit that it can be hard to move on and come to terms with the actuality of the event.

So, here are five tips to getting over a fictional death:

Tip #1: Dealing with Denial

Sometimes death in young adult literature can come out of nowhere*cough cough* The Fault in Our Stars. As you begin to reread the paragraphs that ensued to their death, you skip a few pages ahead convinced that the author has played some cruel trick on you.

Then, it hits you like a wrecking ball. They’re not coming back. Well, at least it’s not half dressed.

Realistically, if a character dies they tend to not magically be revived. And I say, good. Why? Because it allows you the chance to reflect upon the meaning of their role. You get the opportunity to see how significant that character was by witnessing them mold the other characters in the book as the story continues to enfold. But, their not the only ones that are molded. Their existence is amplified due to the emotional conflict they create and leaves a huge impact on the reader as well. Often times, fans reminisce about the character, by paying homage to them, making them memorable in pop culture.

Tip #2: It’s Okay to Cry and be Angry

By this time, your initial disbelief has solidified into an immense amount of grief. After the first Hunger Games book, I stopped midway to full out sob. And after finishing the third, well, let’s just say that I was ready to chuck the book in a bonfire. I shed endless tears and was absolutely furious over the fact that not one, or two, but countless of my favorite characters were gone.

However, this just means that the author is so exceptionally talented that they have the power to move a 16, going on 17, teenage girl to tears. Okay, maybe not an admirable feat, but my teacher, a grown 200 pound man, tears up every time his favorite character in Harry Potter is mentioned. He recites this nearly every day:

“It’s such a beautiful place. . . to be with friends. Dobby is happy to be with his friends. . . Harry Potter.”

Remember, that it is okay to cry and shout and be angry. Death is a key literary device that writers use to effectively connect with their audience. Books are supposed to make you feel emotions and by encountering loss with a realistic and well-developed character, they can make you experience loss. This will make you sad and upset, but it’s definitely a lesson well taught.

Tip #3: Acceptance

There comes a time when you simply need to face the facts. The character died. And it’s time to move on with your life. Because, guess what, you’ll find new stories to immerse yourself in, new characters to adore, and new fictional deaths to mourn over. So, take a deep breath and come to terms with your grief.


  • Sometimes taking a breather from the story to take time and reflect is needed to calm yourself down.

  • Moving on doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to forget the character. Reminisce about the character through drawings and fanfiction, rereads of happy moments, and talking about it with others to let out your frustration.

  • Understand that it’s not real. That it is a piece of fiction and do not allow it to drastically interfere with your livelihood.

In Conclusion:

In all honesty, if the character that you are currently agonizing over didn’t pass away, then the story could have potentially played out in an entirely different way.

For my fellow TIFOS admirers and lovers, refer to the picture on the left. Enough said.

Death in young adult literature can come from all kinds of places. It can range from vehicle related accidents to diseases, from old to young age, and even deaths of non-human creatures. And it will make you sad. But, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

In an August 2014 Guardian article, young adult author Rupert Wallis discusses death in books and states, “I think YA readers are all the richer for it, because the characters in these stories are forced to consider how death shapes life; not only in the philosophical sense of grappling with the nature of existence but also practically, in terms of how to live, how to be.”

So, prepare the tissues, take a deep breath, and allow those fictional deaths to move you.

On a final note, I would like to pay tribute to one of the most realistic characters amongst us, that portrayed the most believable and beloved fictional characters that will always remain in our lives. Thank you for all the laughs, tears, and happy memories you brought. In memory of Robin Williams, R.I.P.

For more reading on recovering from a fictional death, try the following:

Why We Tolerate Many Deaths in Literature (Huffington Post)

Deaths of Fictional Characters and How to Cope (Youtube)

How to Get Over the Death of a Fictional Character (Wikihow)

How to Cope with the Death of a Fictional Character (Honorslounge)

Zeinab Hussen is a 16 year old resident of Minnesota. When she’s not reading a book, she enjoys being involved in school activities, spending time with family and friends, and marathons of old school movies.

Gothic, Horror, and Mysteries: YA Fiction for Fans of Edgar Allan Poe

Thu, 10/02/2014 - 07:00

It’s the time of year where readers start asking for creepy and the supernatural, and teens flock to stories of gothic horror and murder mysteries. There’s no shortage of young adult fiction in these genres—there’s even quite the list of Poe-inspired works. This is a list to satisfy those with an appetite for the macabre or mysterious!

Edgar Allan Poe is often beloved by middle school students. As far as assigned reading in school goes, short stories like “The Tell-tale Heart” or poems like “The Raven” or “Annabel Lee” were some of my personal favorites that even my less bookish classmates enjoyed. These YA novels were inspired by the works of Poe.

YA Novels Inspired by the Works of Poe


  • The Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin

A steampunk retelling of The Masque of the Red Death.

  • The Fall by Bethany Griffin

A new novel is that reimagines The Fall of the House of Usher.

  • Ashes on the Waves by Mary Lindsay

A paranormal gothic novel based on the poem Annabel Lee.

  • Of Monsters and Madness by Jessica Verday

A romantic retelling of Annabel Lee with a touch of horror.

  • Nevermore by Kelly Creagh

A paranormal romance that reimagines the fates Poe’s characters in a modern day high school setting.

2014 Edgar Award Nominees

The Edgar Awards, given each year by the Mystery Writers of America, honors a selection of the best young adult mysteries of the year. As the award is named for Poe, these novels are sure to appeal to readers who want a good mystery full of thrills and chills.

  • Far Far Away by Tom McNeal

This story of a boy who hears the voices of ghosts is a little bit spooky and a little bit funny.

  • Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher

A girl has a dark secret she can only confess to a man on death row, so she writes him letters.

  • Criminal by Terra Elan McVoy

A troubled girl who will do anything for love realizes her actions have consequences.

  • All the Truth That’s In Me by Julie Berry

After being missing for two years, a girl returns to her Puritanical village and struggles to reveal the sinister truth in this mystery about finding your voice.

  • How to Lead a Life of Crime by Kirsten Miller

Students at this school for criminal struggle for power as they discover their true selves.

  • Servants of the Storm by Delilah S. Dawson

A girl’s best friend dies in a hurricane that sweeps through their town…or does she? A psychological thriller sure to creep readers out.

  • Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine

This retelling of The Phantom of the Opera with ghosts and slaughterhouses is a tense, atmospheric read.

  • Creed by Trisha Leaver and Lindsay Currie

When these teenagers are caught in a storm after their car breaks down, they seek shelter in a nearby town and get more than they bargained for in another creepy mystery.

  • Mary: The Summoning by Hilary Monahan

Horror fans will delight in this creepy read. Anyone who was scared by the Bloody Mary legend should read with the lights on!

  • Sweet Unrest by Lisa Maxwell

This murder mystery about dark dreams features a New Orleans setting and a hint of romance.


  • Amity by Micol Ostow

This horror novel is inspired by the legend of a famous haunted house.

  • Fiendish by Brenna Yovanoff

Creepy hexes compliment Yovanoff’s trademark atmospheric prose.

  • The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters

A hypnotist opens a headstrong girl’s eyes to the world in historical novel.

  • Beware the Wild by Natalie Parker

When the swamp at the edge of town swallows her brother, a girl fights to save him. The vivid setting will entice readers looking for a different kind of paranormal with a hint of romance and a lot of mystery.

  • Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke

This novel blends contemporary romance and traditional gothic horror in a seaside setting.

Whether readers are looking for suspenseful murder mysteries, paranormal romance, ghost stories, traditional horror, there’s a creepy tale on this list to satisfy any fan of Edgar Allan Poe.

– Molly Wetta, currently reading The Darkest Path of the Forest by Holly Black

The Fault in Our Novels

Thu, 10/02/2014 - 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 Alyssa Finfer from New Jersey.


Let’s play a game. I’ll list some books, and you tell me which one doesn’t belong.

  • The Catcher in the Rye
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  • Jane Eyre
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • The Hunger Games

I bet most of you picked the last one. Why? These books are all well written and powerful, and I bet many of you have read most or all of them, some even multiple times (I admit I have). Because of their popularity, Hollywood has made movie versions of all of them, though some are admittedly better than others. Despite this, people traditionally study the first four in English class at some point in high school or college, but rarely the last one. Also, even though all these books fit the definition of young adult literature, “literature for and about the young adult,”[1] you won’t find the first four in the YA section in Barnes and Noble. What’s up with that?

Some people argue that the books advertised as young adult fiction today have little or no literary merit. When I recommended The Fault in Our Stars to a friend of mine, she asked me why I, an intelligent person, would “lower” myself by reading “a stupid love story” like that. I argue that you could also dismiss Romeo and Juliet as a “stupid love story.” After all, it also features two teenagers in love who don’t get a happy ending. Then why do more people denounce The Fault in Our Stars?

William Shakespeare, the greatest playwright and the greatest poet who ever lived according to my English teacher, published Romeo and Juliet over 400 years ago. John Green published The Fault in Our Stars about three years ago, and even though his books are thought-provoking and beautifully written, not every English teacher considers him a literary god, well, at least not yet. Romeo and Juliet is so universally praised because people consider it a classic, “a book which people praise and don’t read,” according to Mark Twain. Meanwhile, because people don’t consider The Fault in Our Stars a classic, they aren’t afraid to form honest opinions about it, some positive and some negative. After all, like all works of literature, The Fault in Our Stars does have its, well, faults.

Although I agree that the classics I mentioned are great pieces of literature, because our teachers and professors idolize them, we often fail to look at them with a critical eye and acknowledge their flaws. For example, even though Mark Twain uses them satirically, the racial stereotypes in Huck Finn never ceases to bother me, and I find it hard to decipher some of the dialogue because he writes it so phonetically. Don’t get me wrong, I would still argue that Huck Finn is one of the greatest pieces of American literature. Just like most pieces of literature, it simply isn’t flawless.

The Fault in Our Stars and The Hunger Games aren’t perfect. But Romeo and Juliet is the story of two horny teenagers, The Catcher in the Rye of a whiny teenage jerk, Huckleberry Finn of a racist kid, Jane Eyre of a super high-strung girl, and To Kill a Mockingbird of a dad who is just too darn perfect. A perfect, flawless book simply doesn’t exist, but good books definitely do. We read them in English class and on the subway, on the back porch swing, and from the comfort of our beds. We discuss them in the hallways, in the classroom, and online. And when we notice their weaknesses along with their strengths, we can appreciate them more fully.

Alyssa Finfer is a seventeen year old who lives in New Jersey. When she’s not devouring her latest book, she loves to act, see Broadway shows, and write short stories, plays, and poetry.


[1] Niday, Donna. “English 394: Young Adult Literature.” Iowa State University. Iowa State University, Spring 2000. Web. 10 Sep. 2014.

YALSA YA Lit Symposium: What It’s All About

Thu, 10/02/2014 - 07:00

Are you going to YALSA’s YA Literature Symposium this November? Advanced registration is open until October 13, so register now and join us in Austin! If you’ve never been to a YA Lit Symposium, you might be wondering what it’s all about. Leading up this year’s Symposium, we’ll be featuring interviews with Symposium attendees past and present to give you a picture of why you should attend and what to expect.

Today we have an interview with Lalitha Nataraj, a youth services and academic librarian in Southern California, Hub blogger, and member of the 2016 Printz committee. She attended YALSA’s inaugural YA Lit Symposium in 2008.

What was your biggest takeaway from the YA Lit Symposium?     

I attended the YA Lit Symposium when I was fairly new to the profession, and it was a valuable opportunity to network with others who were equally passionate about YA literature and serving teens. Since it can be an uphill battle trying to convince administrators, colleagues, and even the general public of the value and importance of serving teens in the library, the YA Lit Symposium was also a place where I felt more connected and understood in my role as a teen librarian. In addition to leaving with new ideas and deeper knowledge of teen literature, I felt more confident about getting involved with professional activities with YALSA.

What surprised you most about your Symposium experiences?

This conference was really the first time I got to have actual conversations with actual authors – I can be such a tongue-tied fangirl, so I was really surprised at how approachable they were. The YA Lit Symposium was also where I became acutely aware of the critical partnerships between authors and librarians – we support each other in so many vital ways.

Did you make any memorable author connections at the Symposium?

I really enjoyed meeting Mitali Perkins – we had a lovely conversation about shared cultural experiences, and the importance of translating such experiences into relatable literature for young adults. I’ve stayed connected to Mitali over the years through social media, and was so pleased to see her again (and revisit our conversation) at the 2014 ALSC Institute.

Any practical tips for first-time Symposium attendees?

Logistically, I definitely recommend (if at all possible) staying as close as possible to the meeting venue – I remember my hotel being a few miles away from the conference hotel, and I felt somewhat isolated. Others have said this before, but it bears repeating – don’t be afraid to go up to someone and introduce yourself.

Are you going back or would you in the future? If so, why?

I won’t be at the 2014 Symposium, but it’s definitely a conference I want to attend again in the future – it’s a wonderful way to keep up with trends in teen library services and programming, and also spend time with folks who share my professional values.

Thanks, Lalitha!


Jukebooks: Skink – No Surrender by Carl Hiaasen

Wed, 10/01/2014 - 07:00

Clint Tyree, aka “Skink,” has become as much a part of the Florida landscape as mouse ears, thanks to his featured role in seven Carl Hiaasen books. Here, we first meet Skink when a teen named Richard finds him hiding in a faux turtle nest, planning to pummel anyone who tries to disturb the “eggs.” Turns out, Richard could use a friend like Skink. Richard’s flakey cousin Malley has gone missing, and Richard has become convinced that no one is taking the search seriously.

So the team of Richard and Skink take off across Florida to hunt down Malley. Naturally, a road trip means music. Skink’s choice is what Richard describes as a “Deep South Rocker” entitled “Run Through the Jungle.” The band is Creedence Clearwater Revival, appropriate since the pair are headed for Clearwater.

Richard is a little off, geographically, when he refers to CCR as Deep South. The band members hail from California. Lead singer John Fogerty wrote the lyrics for “Run Through the Jungle,” which include:

Thought I heard a rumblin’
Callin’ to my name
Two hundred million guns are loaded
Satan cries, “Take aim”

Fogerty later explained that this wasn’t an anti-war song, or that he was anti-gun. He himself is a hunter. But it seemed to him that “…so many guns were uncontrolled that it was really dangerous.” (Los Angeles Times, 1993)

-Diane Colson, currently reading Wildflower by Alecia Whitaker

The Beauty of the Short Story

Wed, 10/01/2014 - 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. Our first post comes from Timber Mabes in Oklahoma.

photo by flickr use wiertz

Is your love for literature being strained by large amounts of homework? Can you no longer find time to re-read your favorite novel? Have you been seeing movies before reading their books because you “just don’t have the time?”

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then I certainly have a solution for you: Short Stories!

These short and sweet tales started off as spoken fables. Some of them are still told today, but less widely believed true. Old fables would often explain how the earth came to be or why a certain animal has its name, or looks the way it does.

Another ancient form of a short story is the anecdote.  These were made popular in Roman and Greek culture and functioned as a sort of parable. These classical works of fiction would mark the onset of the world’s first published short stories.

 Today, these “mini novels” are read, and loved by many.

Because short stories naturally range from 1,500 to 30,000 words, you can complete them in an afternoon. 

Just like one of your favorite novels, short stories can:

  • Take you to another time period or transport you to a different generation.
  • Fly you all around the globe, into different countries and incredibly cities.
  • Create strong emotional bonds and attachments to their characters.
  • Surprise you with gut wrenching plot twists. And,
  • Make you anxious for a movie modeled after them.

Now, you may be thinking short stories are very foreign to you; however, you are much more familiar with them than you may believe. Your favorite fairy tales are short stories! Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel, Snow White and Rumpelstiltskin were all adopted from a collection short stories called Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

Suzanne Collins’ bestselling trilogy, The Hunger Games, incorporates concepts inspired by a short story, The Lottery, written by Shirley Jackson. In The Lottery, the population of a slight farming town gathers each summer and reaps the citizen’s names from a black box. What is to happen to the chosen ones? You must read the story to find out!

Believe it or not, many popular movies have also been adapted from short stories, too. These movies include:

  • The Secret Life of Walter Mitty; James Thurber
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button;  F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Jumanji; Chris Van Allsburg
  • The Birds; Daphne du Maurier

As well, an abundance of short stories can be found under the horror genre. Famous authors such as Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen King are known for these powerfully thrilling, justly gory, and wildly suspenseful stories.

Since Halloween is approaching, here are some of the best horror/thrilling short stories:

  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
  • The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe
  • The Tomb by H.P. Lovecraft
  • The Landlady by Ronald Dahl
  • Premium Harmony by Stephen King
  • The Ghost Story by Mark Twain
  • The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allen Poe
  • The Body Snatcher by Robert Louis Stephenson

Short stories can be found in many genres and in a variety of lengths. If you are someone who has a very busy day and is lacking literature, short stories are the way to go!

Timber Mabes is a fifteen year old writer from Tulsa, Oklahoma. When she’s not indulging in a classic novel, she enjoys independent movies, old poetry, good company, and participating in community work about her city.

Get to Know Some YA Authors From Across the Pond

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 07:00

I spent a few weeks in London, then Edinburgh in August on vacation, and, being the librarian and book lover that I am, found myself frequently stopping in bookstores. I wondered whether the same books that teens are reading in the U.S. would be available to British & Scottish teens.

As I wandered the teen sections in Waterstones and WHSmith in London and Blackwell’s in Edinburgh, I found that many of the same YA books that are published here are also popular across the pond in London and Scotland. In Waterstones there was a special display with a sign saying “Everything’s turning green!” promoting John Green’s books. Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl and E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars were also included in another book display.

As I scanned the shelves in the bookstores, I also saw a few authors that I wasn’t as familiar with, or that I hadn’t heard of at all. One, author, Malorie Blackman, current Children’s Laureate for Great Britain for 2013 – 2015, is a British author I had read years ago. Her book Naughts & Crosses (Noughts & Crosses in the UK) was nominated, but didn’t make the 2006 Best Books for Young Adults list.

It’s a sort of Romeo and Juliet story of teens Sephy and Callum who’ve been in love their whole lives, but their romance is forbidden because they have different skin colors. Sephy is a Cross: black-skinned, wealthy and daughter of an important politician. White-skinned Callum is a Naught, devastatingly poor and powerless. The law now allows Naughts to enter Cross schools, and Sephy is thrilled that Callum will attend her school. But the seemingly positive desegregation degenerates into a nightmarish tangle of events ranging from expulsions, to bombings by the Naught Liberation Militia, to hangings. Callum’s older brother, denied schooling, has joined the Naught Liberation Militia. Caught up in escalating violence, Callum’s family disintegrates, and there seems little for him to do but join the terrorists as well. The teens’ romance against overwhelming odds is very powerful and moving.

Naughts & Crosses was published in the UK in 2001. In a Wikipedia article on Blackman, The Times interviewer Amanda Craig speculated about why the Noughts & Crosses series was not published in the United States the same year, “though there was considerable interest, 9/11 killed off the possibility of publishing any book describing what might drive someone to become a terrorist.” Naughts and Crosses was published in the U.S. in 2005, and the paperback published in 2007 under the title Black & White.

The sequel to Naught & Crosses/Black & White is called Knife Edge (2007). In it, Sephy’s six months pregnant with Callum’s baby, but Callum is dead – hanged for terrorism months ago, but his presence still torments Sephy. And she’s not alone. Callum’s brother, Jude, blames Sephy for the death, and wants her dead. Sephy doesn’t like Jude, but when his actions take him to the brink of disaster, his life poised on a knife edge, can she stand by and do nothing? Will she be forced — once again — to take sides in a chilling racial drama?

Blackman wrote more books in the Naughts & Crosses series after the first two: Checkmate and Double Cross, as well as several short stories. Only the first two books are available in the U.S. in hardcover.

The book store shelves were full of one author I’ve never heard of – Sophie McKenzie. She’s an award-winning London author of adult and teen thrillers including the Missing series (Girl, Missing –longlisted for the Carnegie Medal; Sister, Missing; and Missing Me), Blood Ties (longlisted for the Carnegie Medal) and Blood Ransom and the Medusa Project series.

Unfortunately, very few of her books are available here except the first three of the Medusa Project series (The Set-Up; The Hostage and The Rescue) available in paperback. Fourteen years ago, four babies were implanted with the Medusa gene – a gene for psychic abilities. Now teenagers, Nico, Ketty, Ed and Dylan have been brought together by government agents to create a secret crime-fighting force: The Medusa Project. Each has a unique psychic ability. Since their existence has became known to members of the criminal underworld, they have been hidden away in a secluded training camp in Spain, where their identities are being kept secret. Life in camp is hard enough, but then things take a turn for the worse. When one of them is blackmailed into using his mind-reading powers it threatens to endanger the whole Medusa Project.

The series so far features The Set-Up, The Hostage, The Rescue, Hunted and Double-Cross.  A special short story, The Thief, was published in 2010 and Hit Squad, the final book in the series, came out in 2012.

Although we might not be familiar with their books, as authors, they know each other’s work. When asked in November 2012 by The Guardian, one of Britain’s leading newspapers, to name her top 10 teen thrillers, McKenzie listed Blackman’s Naughts & Crosses. She described it as “Tightly plotted, this story is a highly original twist on the classic tale of Romeo and Juliet. I found the structure of the book fascinating and used it as a model for my own book: Blood Ties. When I started visiting schools on author visits, Noughts and Crosses was one of those books every 12-year-old girl seemed to have read!”

Simon and Schuster will be publishing her book In a Split Second in hardcover in the United States in March 2015. Charlie’s life is torn apart by a terrorist bomb in a London market. Months later, she meets Nat, whose family was devastated by the same explosion. But as Charlie gets closer to Nat she uncovers secrets and a whole cast of shady characters that lead her to believe Nat knows more about the attack than he is letting on. It’s a breathtaking thriller that shifts between the perspectives of its two main characters as their courage and their loyalties are tested to the limit.

The sequel, Every Second Counts, is available here as an EBook but it’s also being released here in 2015 in hardcover. In the sequel, Nat and Charlie are on the run, and in more danger than ever. Nowhere is safe for them. They have each other but people are out to get them. Charlie believes the only option is to go undercover and sneaks away from Nat to pursue her plan alone. Nat is desperate to find Charlie, but his family is in danger and their enemy is coming ever closer. Even if Nat and Charlie can find each other again, could being together be even more dangerous than being apart . . .?

McKenzie’s other book that’s available through Amazon is a paperback called Falling Fast. When River auditions for a part in an inter-school performance of Romeo and Juliet, she finds herself smitten by Flynn, the boy playing Romeo. River believes in romantic love, and she can’t wait to experience it. But Flynn comes from a damaged family – is he even capable of giving River what she wants? The path of true love never did run smooth…

I went to the Edinburgh International Book Festival and bought a YA book based on its great looking cover because I’d never heard of the author. While standing in line to get books signed by Michael Morpurgo, I started talking to the teen in front of me and it turns out he had also bought the same book.  It’s a thriller called Bombmaker by Scottish author Claire McFall. It was published in Scotland in 2014 and is only available here as an EBook. In it, the English government has put up border walls to keep the Welsh, Scots and Irish out. Celts caught in England are branded with a tattoo. Caught twice, they are executed. When Scottish teenager Lizzie is saved by gang boss Alexander, she becomes his property and her every move is controlled. With her skills in setting bombs, Lizzie is useful, but for how long? In a dangerous world, Lizzie is fighting for a cause and fighting for her life.

McFall’s first book Ferrymaker (2013) was nominated for the Carnegie Award and is only available here in EBook as well.  When teenager Dylan emerges from the wreckage of a train crash onto a bleak Scottish hillside, she meets a strange boy who seems to be waiting for her. But Tristan is no ordinary teenage boy, and the journey across the desolate, wraith-infested wasteland is no ordinary journey. Life, death, love – which one should Dylan choose?

Seeing that these authors are very popular in Great Britain and Scotland, I hope that more of their books will eventually be published here. We deserve to have the chance to read these authors too without resorting to having to buy them through If there are authors that you’re aware of from across the pond that aren’t well-known here that I missed, please let me know.

-Sharon Rawlins, currently reading Sekret by Lindsay Smith

Remixing The Classics: Young Adult Novels Inspired By Classic Literature

Tue, 09/30/2014 - 07:00

Image courtesy of Flickr user eyalnow

From the multiple big and small screen Sherlock Holmes adaptations to the Web sensation The Lizzie Bennet Diaries’ rewriting of Pride & Prejudice for the YouTube era, entertainment media continue to look to well-known literature for inspiration.  In the world of young adult literature, re-imagining familiar stories in contemporary settings or with unique twists has become quite a tradition. Throughout 2012 and 2013, Hub bloggers Jessica Pryde and Jessica Miller traced this very trend in their series “From Classic To Contemporary,” covering a wide range of re-imagined classics in both young adult literature and film.  Additionally, a number of new titles remixing classic novels or plays have appeared on the scene in just the past year.  As the school year gains momentum and students study such classics, it seems only appropriate that we highlight a few of their young adult lit remixes.

Conversion – Katherine Howe  St. Joan’s Academy is one of the top high schools in Danvers, MA.  Within its hallowed walls, teenage girls battle for valedictorian, labor over applications to the best colleges in the country, attempt to sort out first relationships, and manage shifting friendships & high parental expectations. Senior Colleen Rowley and her friends knew they had a lot to balance but they were keeping it together–or so they thought.  Then the seemingly flawless Clara Rutherford is overcome by uncontrollable tics in the middle of homeroom and within hours, the strange symptoms have spread to her friends.  Suddenly, St. Joan’s becomes into a media circus as more students become ill and everyone fails to come up with an explanation or a cure.  But only Colleen, who has continued to work on her extra credit project researching The Crucible,  realizes that Danvers used to be called Salem Village and another group of girls was once at the epicenter of a similar episode a few centuries ago.

This modernization of Arthur Miller’s play interweaves the events unfolding at St. Joan’s with a fresh perspective on the witch hunt hysteria in historical Salem.

Great - Sara Benincasa  Naomi Rye has never enjoyed the summers she spends with her cupcake mogul and socialite mother in East Hampton.  She feels completely out of place among the wealthy teens who have ‘summered’ there for years and spends most of her wishing to be back in Chicago with her dad and her best friend.  But this summer is different–this year, the mysterious & alluring Jacinta is renting the house next door.  With her extravagant parties, flamboyant fashion sense, and gentle sweetness, Jacinta is unlike anyone Naomi has ever met and she can’t help but be fascinated.  But Jacinta has her own reasons for pursuing Naomi’s friendship–chief among them being her intense interest in the beautiful Delilah Fairweather.   Yet the deeper Naomi gets drawn into Jacinta and Delilah’s web of illusions, the harder it will be for her to escape with her soul intact. 

For readers who can’t get enough of  The Great Gatsby (especially after the recent film adaptation), Gordon Korman also re-imagined this American classic in his 2005 novel, Jake, Reinvented.

Second Star - Alyssa B. Sheinmel  Wendy Darling just graduated from high school; she should be partying with her friends on the beach or getting ready for her new life at Stanford in the fall.  But instead Wendy is planning to set out on a search for her younger brothers John and Michael, obsessed surfers who disappeared nine months ago.  Her parents and friends have decided that the recent discovery of the boys’ destroyed boards at the site of a dangerous storm is the last they’ll ever see or hear of them.  Wendy, however, refuses to give up hope and when she stumbles upon a hidden cove and the group of renegade and runaway surfers who live there, she’s sure that she’s on the right track.  Yet the more time she spends in Kensington cove, Wendy can’t help but feel drawn to both the group’s charismatic leader, Pete, and his enemy across the cove, the confusingly kind drug dealer Jas.  But both Pete and Jas know more about John and Michael than they’re telling and Wendy will have to question everything, including her own heart and mind.

J.M. Barrie’s childhood classic seems like a popular source of inspiration for young adult authors; Jodi Lynn Anderson also remixed this story in Tiger Lily (2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults).

The Madman’s Daughter - Megan Shepard  (2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults) Juliet Moreau has tried her best to forget about her father–the now infamous Dr. Moreau who was accused of unethical medical experiments.   The scandal that followed left Juliet and her mother scrambling to survive.  Now it’s just Juliet, working as a maid at the medical college and trying to move on.  But when she learns that her father is still alive and working on a remote tropical island, she decides she wants some answers.  So accompanied by her father’s handsome assistant Montgomery and a mysterious castaway Edward, Juliet finally reaches her father’s new home. But as soon as she arrives, Juliet can tell that something is terribly wrong. The island’s inhabitants seem oddly deformed and worship the doctor as a god.  Montgomery brought a host of animals over on the ship yet her father says that they don’t eat meat.  As Juliet realizes the truth about her father’s work, she is simultaneously repulsed and intrigued.  However, someone–or something–is killing the island’s residents and Juliet must decide how far she willing to go to save herself–and possibly the larger world–from her father’s horrific genius.

Juliet’s adventures continue beyond the world introduced in H.G. Wells’ original novel in the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde-inspired sequel, Her Dark Curiosity, and the Frankenstein-inspired conclusion to the trilogy, The Cold Legacy (to be released in January 2015)

What are your favorite young adult novels that re-imagine classic tales?

Which classics would you like to see remixed next?

-Kelly Dickinson, currently reading The Red Pencil written by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated Shane W. Evans

What Would They Read?: Firefly

Mon, 09/29/2014 - 07:00

I was nervous a few months ago when I tackled the popular series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer for the “What Would They Read” series here on The Hub, where we pair up favorite TV characters with YA lit recommendations– but I’m even more apprehensive with this blog entry.  Joss Whedon’s Firefly found its end far too soon and yet has been kept alive by extremely passionate fans.  This is a massive undertaking in the vast world of fandoms.  Feel free to comment on my selections below.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Firefly, here is a brief synopsis: Firefly takes place in a future world with new star systems with moons and planets that have been terraformed to replicate life on Earth.  Although the technology of the future is far more advanced that technology today, the new settlements on the moons most resemble the Old West.  The Alliance is the central government, comprised of the only two superpowers left; America and China.  Because of China’s power, Chinese influences in fashion and language and dispersed throughout everyday life.  The show follows a specific ship that resembles a firefly named Serenity.  Captain Malcom Reynolds and his crew live on the shady side of the law, delivering stolen government goods to planets in need and making deals with some unpleasant people.  In an attempt to appear more respectable and make a little extra money, Mal decides to take on a few passengers.  Instead situations because even more complicated.

It is true that a majority of Serenity’s crew would no sooner read a book than play professional football, I would like to believe my statement that there is a book for every reader.  With no further ado, here are my reading recommendations.

Mal Reynolds – Initially, Mal has a stern, no-nonsense personality.  Although, as the show progresses, we see a bit of a sense of humor emerging for time to time.  There’s no question that Mal would prefer a book with a strong action-packed plot with a slight hint of a romance.  Mal may think he’s kidding everyone with his love/hate relationship with Inara, but we know it’s there.  Also, Mal was on the losing side of the civil war against the Alliance and thus does not respect government authority.  For Mal, I would definitely recommend Legend by Marie Lu (2012 Teens’ Top Ten) as well as the other two books in the series, Prodigy and Champion.  Mal and Day have similar personality traits, the main one being their need to help out the little guy from being trampled by the oppressive government.

Zoe -  Zoe is a soldier and a very strong woman.  Second in command to Mal on the ship, Zoe tends to be the level-headed voice of reason when Mal and Jayne show off their hot tempers.  It was not difficult to pick a book for Zoe in a time when teen literature is rushing to showcase the tough as nails female protagonist who is ready and capable of taking care of herself.  The first book that came to mind was Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. Throne of Glass, a 2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults selection, is the first book in a series about Celaena Sardothien, a female assassin that is so dangerously, most do not know her by appearance but shudder at the sound of her name.  Like Zoe, Celaena takes on a role normally held by men and executes it better.

Wash – Everyone needs a little comic relief to melt down all the seriousness!  Wash is a child at heart and the perfect match for Zoe.  Whether it’s playing with dinosaurs or commenting on his planet’s favorite pastime of geese juggling, Wash always has something interesting to bring to the conversation.  It’s been stated by some that Black Hole Sun by David Macinnis Gill has several similarities to Firefly.  Perhaps Wash will enjoy reading about another ship hurtling through space.  I can picture it so clearly in my mind…Wash sitting in the cockpit of Serenity, leaning back in his car with his feet kicked up on the control panel reading a book.

Jayne Cobb – Jayne may not be the most intelligent or loyal person on Serenity, but he will probably feel bad if he crosses you for his own personal gain.  Jayne is a weapons nut who has survived this far due to dumb luck and his partnership with Mal and Zoe.  Jayne was definitely one of the more difficult readers to fit with a book.  After much deliberation, I settled on Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi.  In this 2011 Printz Award winning title, Nailer must decide whether his lucky strike will end in his fortune or his helping to save another.  Jayne might relate to Nailer’s predicament in comparison to his experiences in Canton.

Kaylee – Kaylee is a starry-eyed mechanic with a penchant for the finer things in life.  That is to say, Kaylee loves her job and can maintain Serenity through an ability close to a sixth sense.  That doesn’t stop her from dreaming about fancy dresses, high brow dances, and the life of a swell.  Kaylee may initially come off as a bit naive, but it’s safe to say that she has lived through some trying times.  If I were going to give Kaylee a book based solely on its cover, I would give her The Selection by Kiera Cass, as well as the others in the series.  Kaylee loves big, puffy dresses and America Singer definitely has some of those.  I also believe that Kaylee would enjoy America’s experiences with Prince Maxon.  Finally, I don’t know about you, but I definitely see some shared personality traits in these two girls.

I’ve finished with the basic crew of Serenity.  Obviously there are several members that I have not commented on yet.  Instead of squeezing in the remaining four, Simon and River Tam, Shepherd Book, and Inara, I will save another entry just for them.  Look for the follow-up to this blog entry in November.  Feel free you add your own suggestions for these four in the comment section below.

-Brandi Smits, currently reading Love by the Morning Star by Laura L. Sullivan and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling


We Need Diverse Books: Spotlight on Sara Farizan

Mon, 09/29/2014 - 07:00

Graphic courtesy of

In April of this year, the We Need Diverse Books campaign took the YA literary world by storm.  Sparked by an initial Twitter exchange between Ellen Oh and Malinda Lo, the movement quickly grew to encompass a wide array of authors, librarians, publishers, bloggers, and readers—a group fittingly representative of the diversity they seek to promote.  We Need Diverse Books’ mission is straightforward: “to promote or amplify diversification efforts and increase visibility for diverse books and authors, with a goal of empowering a wide range of readers in the process.”

So how can YA librarians actively support this campaign? Simple…by reading more widely, by book talking and recommending diverse books, by promoting a culture of empathy, and by educating ourselves on the many layered and complex issues that accompany being both allies and agents of change.

To that end, I’ve decided to devote a monthly post to highlight author and books that truly exemplify the diversity we wish to see reflected in our literature at large.  By diversity, I mean books that bring a rich, nuanced understanding of a particular viewpoint or experience to their readers; a viewpoint traditionally ignored or made invisible by the mainstream media.  What this means is that while I love Cho Chang as much as the next Harry Potter fan, her presence does not qualify the series as being an example of diversity. Rather, the books I’m interested in promoting are those that move beyond mere representation (or worse, tokenism) to portraits of diverse individuals that are authentic, unique, and relatable.

Photo Credit: Mark Karlsberg /
Studio Eleven

That said, I can think of no better author to kick-off this series than Sara Farizan, author of If You Could Be Mine (2014 ALA Rainbow List Top 10 Title) and the upcoming Tell Me How A Crush Should Feel (out October 7th). The daughter of Iranian immigrants, Farizan grew up proud of her heritage while also fearful of what her community would think of her sexuality.  Her struggle to reconcile her sexual identity and her cultural identity manifests itself in her writing and provides a compelling honesty to both her works.

The story of Farizan’s debut novel, If You Could Be Mine, begins—like so many other YA romances—with best friends falling in love. However, the best friends in question are two Iranian teenage girls named Sahar and Nasrin who face death if their love is discovered. When Nasrin finds herself engaged to be married, Sahar is heartbroken and desperate to find a way to be with her girlfriend. Since being transgender in Iran is legal (although not necessarily accepted), Sahar sees sex reassignment surgery as possibly the only way she can live with and love Nasrin openly. As Sahar is introduced to a support group for people transitioning, she begins to grapple with the fact that gender identity and sexual identity are, in fact, distinctly different. This realization and the soul-searching that ensues form the bulk of the narrative interspersed with fascinating details about life in modern-day Iran.

If You Could Be Mine is notable in that it falls so far outside the bounds of what constitutes “mainstream” young adult GLBTQI. Indeed, it is a direct response to the lack of diversity in what is, ironically, itself a marginalized community. As Farizan herself says in an essay for Algonquin Young Readers, “I began reading as much as I could about what my feelings meant and tried to find books that spoke to my experience. While there was literature about LGBT teenagers, it was limited, and almost all of the characters were white Americans. While I am American, and . . . I am technically Caucasian, I was growing tired of reading the same kinds of stories and wishing there was something else.” Admirably, Farizan chose to create her own solution to the problem by writing stories founded in her personal experiences that expand the boundaries of GLBTQI literature.

I would argue that what makes this novel such a necessary addition to our conversation about diverse books is the range and richness it brings to our understanding of what makes our world so diverse. It is multi-faceted in its depiction of people’s experiences and, what I loved most, this depiction is not limited to the main character. We meet Ali—Sahar’s wildly charismatic, eminently likable, morally dubious gay cousin whose side story is almost as absorbing as Sahar’s. Parveen, a beautiful transsexual woman, acts as Sahar’s mentor and introduces her to a transgender support group. The radically different experiences of each member of the group illustrate quite clearly that no single individual’s story can speak for the whole and that, consequently, a multitude of narratives need to be told.

If You Could Be Mine is not without its flaws—as other reviewers have noted, Sahar’s naivete can stretch belief at times and Nasrin, unfortunately, lacks the depth and likability of the other characters. Nevertheless, I can think of few other YA books that introduce the reader to an entire world of experiences that are both relatable (who here has not experienced heartbreak?) and eye-opening (was anyone else surprised and horrified by Daughter’s tale of prostitution?) Add to the mix that the book is not set in the Western world and yet remains a contemporary tale and you have a book ideally placed to challenge assumptions, encourage sensitivity, and open minds.

Sara Farizan’s second novel, Tell Me How A Crush Should Feel, falls more squarely within the conventional coming-out genre. The story follows Leila, an Iranian American junior at the upscale Armstead Academy, who has managed to largely float under the radar while at school.  Blessed with two loyal and entertaining best friends, she’s content with her place in the social hierarchy despite her lack of a love life. This is largely because she likes girls and is terrified that anyone will find out; as she herself says “I’m not ready to announce my lady-loving inclinations as of yet…I’m already different enough at this school. I don’t need to add anything else to that.”  Her world is abruptly turned upside down, however, when a glamorous new student named Saskia arrives. Her growing attraction for Saskia forces her to confront not only her own fears but also her perceptions and assumptions of others.

So what distinguishes this book from the many other coming-out books that exist? For one, it explores both critically and compassionately, the difficulties of coming out when part of a cultural community that deeply disapproves of homosexuality. Farizan doesn’t shy away from the fact that our identities are necessarily complex and layered and oftentimes at odds with each other. Leila has to learn how to negotiate between and eventually reconcile her identity as a loving daughter, a person of Persian descent, and a young woman coming to terms with her sexuality. The fact that she does so with humor and wit makes her all the more endearing.

Farizan also deftly incorporates details of growing up a second generation immigrant and the ways in which living in two cultures can be both comforting and frustrating, especially for teens. And as in her first novel, Farizan includes a host of well developed secondary characters—ranging from a sociopathic femme fatale to a vampire-obsessed theater tech girl to the only out gay student at the school—whose stories challenge stereotype and embrace the belief that we all are made up of layers and longing and the desire to be heard.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this first post in the We Need Diverse Books series…let me know in the comments of any other authors and books you’d like me to highlight in the coming months!

~Alegria Barclay, currently reading The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

Are You Ready for Some Football?

Mon, 09/29/2014 - 07:00

It’s that time of year again– pull up a chair and get ready for football. Football season started already. If you can’t get enough football, here are some books for you. Of course, there are more football books than those below, so add your favorites in the comments.

The Bridge from Me to You by Lisa Schroeder
Lauren’s new to town and she’s trying to put her past behind her and move on. Colby lives in the same small town, but has visions of escaping somewhere where he isn’t known for his football skills.  Can the two of the find a way to belong in this small town?

Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally
Jordan’s the quarterback for her high school football team. She’s awesome at her job, loves being in charge of the team and being one of the guys. When another QB comes to town, could her position be on the line?

Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock ( 2008 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults)
DJ’s brothers were both amazing at football; she’s not so bad at playing either. Working on the family farm comes first and it’s a struggle to survive after her father’s injured. When the QB from the high school’s rival team comes to help out, DJ starts opening up more. As they become friends, it occurs to DJ that if she tries out for the high school team, they could be sports enemies.

Football Genius by Tim Green
Troy has a gift of knowing the next play on the field – he only wishes someone would give him a chance to use it. He’s tired of being the best QB but sitting the bench because the coach favors his son. Then his mom gets a job with the Atlanta Falcons. His favorite NFL team started the year off strong, but have been losing lately.  Troy can see the plays on the field before they happen. Troy thinks he could help the Falcons win – if only they would listen. Can he convince anyone to give him a chance?

QB1 by Mike Lupica
Jake’s always lived in his brother’s shadow. Being a QB runs in the family – like father, like sons. As Jake begins his freshman year of high school, he knows he’s not the team’s first string quarterback. When the senior QB goes down in the first game, out for the season, Jake and Casey must battle for the top spot. Jake knows that he has the mental game, but his throws don’t always pack the heat. Casey has a heck of an arm, but he also has a way of telegraphing his passes. Can Jake up his game enough to make the top spot and finally get out from his brother’s shadow?

Big Book of Who: Football by the editors of Sports Illustrated Kids
Broken into sections of champions, personalities, record breakers, super scorers, and yardage kings this book gives you 101 players that super fans need to know. Fast facts and super stats accompany the page spreads along with tons of great action pictures.

Football: Then to Wow by the editors of Sports Illustrated Kids
This book is perfect for fans of football. It shows the history of the game from uniforms to coaching style to stadiums to rule changes. Lots of great information about how the sport has evolved since 1869.


~ Jennifer Rummel, currently reading Love, Lucy by April Linder

The Monday Poll: Love-to-Hate Evil Leaders in YA Lit

Sun, 09/28/2014 - 23:28

photo by flickr user pumpkincat210

Good morning, Hub readers!

Last week, we asked which Fall sequel you’re looking forward to reading. 40% of you are eagerly awaiting the next book in Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Boys series, Blue Lily, Lily Blue, followed by 25% who are holding your breath for Robin LaFevers’ Mortal Heart. You can see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive. Thanks to all of you who voted!

This week, as we flip the calendar page to October and the season of spooks and scares, we’ve got villains on the brain. We want to know about your favorite evil leader in YA lit. And not just any old run-of-the-mill bad guy– we’re talking about those really conniving, manipulative characters who have managed to get into a position of authority and influence. [insert evil laugh here]

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.

Genre Guide: Steampunk for Teens

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 07:00

By Catherinette Rings Steampunk (Daniel Proulx) (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons


Steampunk, believe it or not, is a term that has been round since the late 1980s. It is usually defined as a sub-genre of science fiction and features a late 19th century or early 20th century setting, but with steam-powered and clockwork inventions and machines.  Steampunk can also be identified as a sub-genre of speculative fiction and is often described as alternate history.  Most steampunk novels are set in Victorian England or America, but are also known to be set in the Wild West of America.

Authors to Know


Steampunk is often characterized by the setting of the story and inventions that are fantastical and magical. Steampunk uses a lot of visual descriptions, especially when it comes to the machinery and fashion. Oftentimes, a lot of description will go into how a machine works.  Supernatural elements are typically included in a steampunk story. Steampunk plots are adventure-driven stories, where machines play the part of moving the adventure along.  Since there is so much action packed into most steampunk novels, the pacing is usually fast.

The characters of steampunk novels are quirky and include inventors, mad scientists, or the like. Characters in steampunk novels also take on the punk mentality.  Usually the main character or characters is individualistic often goes against the mainstream, and he or she may be fighting for a cause or movement.   Many times the plot of a steampunk novel involves good vs. evil, where the good guys and bad guys are clearly defined.


Much of steampunk’s appeal is exploring the fantasy of “what would have happened if..?”  Readers enjoy imagining the machines that authors create that function in a time before ours, where the technology of today does not exist.  Instead levers, gears, steam, and clockwork are what authors use to create fantastic machines.  Steampunk is also a genre where readers can escape and enjoy an alternate history filled with excitement and adventure, eccentric characters, and rich descriptions of setting, fashion, and machinery.


Readers of steampunk are those who enjoy history, science, and/or an action-packed adventure stories.  Readers of steampunk are also those who are willing to suspend disbelief.  Steampunk appeals to both male and female readers, though not all readers flock to steampunk.  Steampunk is not a mainstream genre, but those who read it definitely form a strong attachment to it, and may begin identifying with other aspects of the steampunk culture (the fashion, the maker movement, etc).


The steampunk genre has been thought of as a trend itself.  However, it has been around long enough now where many consider it a genre.  Trends can include incorporating warfare, romance, and time travel into the plot of a steampunk novel.  Currently, many steampunk novels feature feisty female leads.


Reference Books

The Steampunk Bible: an illustrated guide to the world of imaginary airships, corsets and goggles, mad scientists, and strange literature  by Jeff Vandermeer with S.J. Chambers (Abrams, 2011).

Read On… Speculative Fiction for Teens by Jamie Kallio (Libraries Unlimited, 2012).


Most major publishers do publish steampunk novels for teens.


No awards exist specifically for the steampunk genre at this time.  Though steampunk novels have been in the running for the Hugo and Nebula awards.

Recommended Titles

- Colleen Seisser, currently reading The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Tweets of the Week: September 26th

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 07:00

This is Banned Books Week and I have some tweets on the topic below, but also check out the entire #bannedbooksweek hashtag for more tweets.


Banned Books Week:




Just for Fun:

~ Jennifer Rummel currently reading Blind Spot for Boys by Justina Chen

A Small Smörgåsbord of Scandinavian YA Lit

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 07:00

Photo courtesy of jari

Over the past several years, Scandinavian and Scandinavian-influenced culture seems to be popping up everywhere.  We’ve seen this during the past six to eight years in the popularity of authors such as the Swedish Stieg Larsson, who wrote The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, and the Norwegian Jo Nesbø, who writes the Harry Hole series.  Over the past few years you or someone you know has definitely played “Angry Birds,” a game app created by Finnish company Rovio Entertainment.  (I admit that I myself facilitated an “Angry Birds” pom-pom craft at my library.)  Recently, the movie Frozen, based in part on 19th century Danish author Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, The Snow Queen, took over the box office. To bring it back to young adult literature, the 2014 Printz Award and a Printz Honor went to two novels with Scandinavian settings, respectively Midwinterblood by the British writer Marcus Sedgwick and The Kingdom of Little Wounds by American Susann Cokal.

So this all inspired me to find out what’s been written in the past few years by  Scandinavian YA authors.  Read on for a sampling of recent popular and award-winning titles – feel free to serve yourself!

From Iceland:

Boy on the Edge by Fridrik Erlings (sometimes written as “Erlingsson’) is the story of Henry, a teen who stutters, has a clubfoot and is almost illiterate.  A growing rage has also developed inside him and one day he lashes out physically at his mother.  As a result, he’s sent to live at the “Home of Lesser Brethren,” a farm on a lava field on the Icelandic coast.  Henry finds that he really enjoys working with the animals there, and this along with the compassion of the wife of the reverend who runs the farm somewhat lessens the difficulty of his new environment.  Henry’s desperate desire to make friends affects his actions, sometimes for the worse, but sometimes for the better, such as when he becomes interested in reading and writing.  This novel is based on the author’s actual relationship with the real Henry. 


From Norway:

Klaus Hagerup’s Markus + Diana is the first in a series about shy thirteen-year-old Markus, who enjoys writing letters in which he takes on alternate personas in order to get celebrities’ autographs.  Pretending to be a thirty-year-old mountain-climbing millionaire, he begins a correspondence with beautiful American actress, Diana Mortensen.  When she decides she’d like to come to Norway to meet him, Markus and his overly confident best friend Sigmund hatch a scheme to become masters of etiquette in order to pass as wealthy adults.  The second book in the series, Markus and the Girls, is also available in the U.S.


From Sweden:

In 2010 author Jenny Jägerfeld earned the August Prize for Best Swedish Children’s Book of the Year for Me On the Floor, Bleeding.  Seventeen-year-old narrator Maja is an unpopular and bullied goth who, on top of all this, is having an even harder time of it. When she one day accidentally cuts off the end of her thumb in sculpture class, many appear concerned, including her dad.  The exception is her mother, Jana, whose love Maja desperately seeks.  When Maja attempts her usual visit with Jana, she finds that she has disappeared.  Because she is at her mother’s home, however, Maja happens to meet Jana’s next-door neighbor, Justin, with whom she has a brief relationship.  In her search for answers about her mother, Maja eventually learns that Jana has been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, a fact which is difficult for Maja to assimilate. Author Jägerfeld is herself a psychologist.


From Finland:

As Red As Blood is the first book in author Salla Simukka’s Snow White Trilogy.  Lumikki is a seventeen-year-old who lives on her own in order to attend art school.  When she one day finds some money soaked in blood in a photography darkroom, she decides to try to solve the mystery, which turns out to involve some danger.  She and three other classmates become involved in the investigation, and standoffish Lumikki actually makes friends with Elisa, the daughter of a police officer.  Parents do not play much of a role in the story, but the four teens find strength in each other.  Lumikki is a strong and independent lead character in this fast-paced adventure.


From Denmark:

Janne Teller earned a 2011 Printz Honor for Nothing (also a 2011 Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers), along with numerous other awards.  Matter-of-fact narrator Agnes tells us how seventh grader Pierre one day decides that life has no meaning and walks out of the classroom.  He then proceeds to climb up a tree, and there he remains.  To get him to come down, his classmates decide to show him in a tangible way that life has meaning.  They do this by making a pile of things that are meaningful to each of them.  However, the story becomes dark and eventually horrifying as the students begin to demand more and more serious sacrifices of each other.


If you’ve read any of the above titles, we’d love your comments on what you thought of them.  Also, if you can recommend additional Scandinavian standouts, please let us and your fellow Hub readers know!

- Anna Dalin, currently reading World of Trouble by Ben H. Winters