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Your Connection to Teen Reads
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For Fans of The Fault In Our Stars: What to Read Next

Fri, 05/30/2014 - 07:00

Next week, the highly anticipated movie based on John Green’s 2012 Teens’  Top Ten winning title The Fault In Our Stars will be released. The first post I ever wrote for The Hub offered a list of books that fans of The Fault in Our Stars would enjoy and with the movie coming out so soon, now seems like a good time to add to this list.

Since my last post, I have discovered even more books that will appeal to fans of TFiOS, so whether you are looking for a book to occupy you until you see the movie or a list of books to fill your summer, hopefully you will find what you are looking for here.

Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy: Alternating between points of view and points in time, this story slowly reveals glimpses of Alice’s battle against cancer, but at its heart it is really the story of the relationship between Alice and her best friend Harvey, who she enlists to help her complete her bucket list. This is a book about what happens when you don’t die, and how difficult it can be to decide to grow as a person.

The F-It List by Julie Halpern: Another book about a bucket list, in this case, Alex is left to complete her best friend Becca’s bucket list when Becca is too sick to do most of the activities herself. After months of not talking due to Becca’s inexcusable actions on the day of Alex’s father’s funeral, the list helps to bring the two back together and allows Alex to work through her grief after her father’s death. Halpern creates characters who are real in both their strength and their flaws. 

After Ever After by Jordan Sonnenblick: Rather than focusing on the battle against cancer, Sonnenblick opts to look at the aftermath of the disease. Jeffrey had cancer as a young boy, but now that he is in remission, he still has to deal with what happens next, which for him means contending with permanent nerve damage and the after effects of his medication which leave him struggling in school and often losing focus. The book also tackles the impact that his cancer has had on his family members and is a great picture of what happens after “getting better.” (2012 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults)

Never Eighteen by Megan Bostic: Knowing that he will die soon, Austin Parker has decided that he wants to leave his mark on the world. While some of the things he hopes to do are simply experiences he has not yet had, his greater goal is to reach out to those in his life that he sees struggling in an attempt to help them to find a way to improve their own lives. Over the course of one action-packed weekend, Austin attempts to experience everything and save everyone he knows, taking the reader along for the ride.

Somebody Up There Hates You by Hollis Seamon: Set on the hospice floor of a hospital, this is not necessarily a book focused on making cancer an uplifting topic. Instead, Seamon tells the story of real teens who happen to be living the rest of their lives in hospice. She offers an unflinching view of their experience and, at the same time, creates a very believable and funny protagonist. (2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults)

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness: This book is much different from any other book on the list. It includes elements of the paranormal, fables, and illustrations by Jim Kay, all of which contribute to a dark and creepy environment. But at its heart, this story is the very real story of a teen struggling to deal with the fact that his mother has cancer. According to the cover of the book, the concept was “inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd,” an author who herself died of cancer, and it proves to be a powerful approach to a difficult topic, one that enhances the emotion of the story rather than detracting from it. (2012 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults)

This Star Won’t Go Out by Esther Earl with Lori and Wayne Earl: Fans of TFiOS may recall that it was dedicated to Esther Earl, a teen who died of thyroid cancer in 2010. This book tells her story through her writing, her artwork, pictures of her throughout her life, and passages written by her family and friends. It captures the experience of one girl who had cancer and offers a very personal view of a disease that many readers may not have encountered.

With so many great and very different books available, I hope every TFiOS fan will be able to find something to read on this post or my initial one. Let me know how you feel about these books or any others I may have missed in the comments. And, be sure to watch The Hub for a post on the movie once it is out!

-Carli Spina, currently reading The Nightmare Dilemma by Mindee Arnett

One Thing Leads to Another: An Interview with Laini Taylor

Thu, 05/29/2014 - 07:00

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

It might be possible to resist Laini Taylor’s words and worlds, but I kind of doubt it.  I didn’t even try.  A friend sent me Blackbringer (book one of the Dreamdark series) and I fell headlong in love from the first sentence–”The wolf tasted the babe’s face with the tip of his tongue and pronounced her sweet, and the fox licked the back of her head to see if it was so,” for the record.  When Lips Touch was nominated for the National Book Award I was thrilled, but not surprised (it was a YALSA Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults as well.)  And then came Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Karou and Akiva and Brimstone and Zuzana and finally the not-very-well-kept-secret of Laini Taylor exploded and it was wonderful, because there is no resisting Laini Taylor’s words and worlds.  The detail, the scope, the sheer width and breath and depth of them just sucks you in like a beautiful, deadly, whirlpool.  Here there be marionettes and teeth and pomegranates and spiders and bat wings and blackened handprints and death and hope and courage and, of course, love, and how can anyone be expected to resist that?  My advice is not to try.  Just dive into the maelstrom and enjoy the ride.

Thank you so much, Laini, for taking the time to talk; for sticking with me through travel, technical difficulties, and kid time; and for the really excellent description of teen hair fail (been there.)

Always Something There to Remind Me

Please describe your teenage self.
I was ordinary and undistinguished, probably wearing ill-fitting jeans and exhibiting a lack of hair-styling mastery. If I wasn’t reading, I was daydreaming. I had a very good vocabulary and no sense of when not to use obscure words in conversation, so I got a lot of blank looks, and I’m sure I sounded pretentious. I memorized poetry, loved foreign films, and dreamed of escaping to Europe to pursue some grand, artistic life. I was a decent student and a decent athlete, and I had good parents and a small number of good friends. My high school life wasn’t terrible, but it would make a really boring book.

What did you want to be when you grew up?  Why?
I always wanted to be a writer. This has been a constant since very early childhood, with a few other—half-hearted—interests cropping up along the way, generally due to the influence of some book I was reading at the time. Like, thanks to Gerald Durrell, I wanted to travel the world collecting wild animals for zoos. None of these detours were ever serious. I’ve only ever really wanted to be a writer. In high school, specifically, I wanted to be a writer who vanished inexplicably and was believed dead. Yes, really. I would not be dead, of course. I would be living fabulously, secretly, in Tahiti. People would discuss the mystery of my disappearance in cafes the world over. This fantasy was mostly not serious. Mostly. I’ve always had ludicrous, over-the-top daydreams! Plus, I was under the influence of John Fowles novels at that time.

What were your high school years like?
When I was fourteen, my family moved from Brussels, Belgium to Orange County, California. It was 1987ish. This was not a happy move. I’d been living overseas for six years (my dad was in the Navy), first in a small, southern Italian beach town and then a major European capital. I’m sure I thought I was very worldly, but California was not impressed. I was lacking certain critical skills. For example, I didn’t know how to use a curling iron! In Orange County in 1987, you had to use a curling iron. For my first attempt, I curled in the wrong direction and scorched a kink into my hair. It was awesome. But I learned how to do it, sort of, to this effect: I would start out the school day with giant tidal-wave bangs (success!), but by second period the hair spray would start to give out (failure!) and my hair would slowly lose its structural integrity and collapse into a sad, half-resting state. Thinking back, I’m sure that not all of high school was about hair, but it kind of feels that way. I challenge you to look at my year book and notice anything else! “That hair! Oh my god, that hair!”

What were some of your passions during that time?  
Thinking back, I don’t feel like I was really passionate about anything in high school, and I wish that weren’t the case. I wish I’d had some esoteric obsession, or particular area of expertise, but I was kind of a bland generalist. I was on the soccer, diving and track teams, belonged to the Model United Nations club along with my best friends, and had long-running crushes on unattainable boys. Outside of school, there wasn’t much to do. There were no cafes or any other places to hang out. My mom had a convertible VW so I could borrow that and drive my friends to the beach. We would go all the way to Laguna Beach to make jewelry at this one bead store. We rented movies, especially French ones (Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources were faves) and tear-jerker period pieces. Junior and senior year I worked at uninspiring mall jobs to save money for my escape back to Europe. I suppose if I had any passion then, that was it: laying plans for my escape!

Would you be willing to share a difficult teen experience or challenge that you feel shaped the adult you became?
Probably, more than anything, moving around shaped me. As a Navy family, we were always moving, and I took it in stride (which is not to say that it was without drama), but looking back now, I think how difficult it really is to live a life of uprooting. By far the most challenging time for my brother and myself was the move back to the States when we were in high school. For the first time, we were moving into a civilian community. Before, we’d always been integrating into military communities where everyone else was as fluid as we were. We were all equally open to making new friends; it was our normal. It was not the normal in Fountain Valley, California! (Plus there was the hair issue! Oh NO!)

This is a great subject for a YA novel—being the new kid in town—because it’s just such a fraught proposition, and so much can go wrong. I navigated it all right, I guess, though I wouldn’t be surprised if the root reason that I write YA is as some kind of a deeply buried wish to do these years over, and do them better.

(This is certainly a very thought-provoking interview. Maybe it’s weird that as a YA author I never think about my own teen years, but I guess I don’t, because this feels like new territory for me.)

What about a positive experience or accomplishment that had an impact on your adult self?
As soon as I graduated from high school, I was on a plane back to Europe. My parents had said long ago that I could, and I’m sure they imagined that some of my friends would be going too, but it turned out that none of their parents would let them, so it was just me. I was seventeen and had no life skills, but I got a Eurail pass, a big backpack, and a copy of Let’s Go: Europe, and I backpacked around all summer on my own and then stayed on another couple of months in Paris, living in an attic (which sounds more artistic and atmospheric than it was), babysitting French kids, and daydreaming a lot about being a writer. It was my Big Adventure (though it really was a fairly small adventure), and I can’t imagine myself without having done it.

What advice, if any, would you give your teen self?  Would your teen self have listened?
I found myself giving this advice to a young friend recently, knowing I wouldn’t have listened to it myself at her age: Forget about boys until your mid-20s! Sorry, boys, but you’re not worth the trouble until maybe then. (Most of you, anyway. There are probably exceptions!) Teen self, my advice is just to focus on you, your dreams, your friends, your interests, skills, grades (yes, grades!). When it comes to boys, in the words of Karou: “Be that cat.” (This is from Daughter; she’s thinking how she’s sick of being the kind of cat that’s always twining around ankles saying “look at me, pet me, love me”; she wants to be the kind of cat that’s perched out of reach on a high wall, untouchable, needing no one. Not that Karou abided by this advice either, but wow, maybe she should have!)

Do you have any regrets about your teen years?  Anything left undone or anything that might have been better left undone?
I wish I would have written more, painted and drawn more. I wish I would have started a weird zine or something, been more creative—and more individual. In my story-writing efforts at that time, my characters were these quirky girls who drove old ratty French cars like Citroens that they’d written poetry all over, and they belonged to secret societies that read Dante and stuff like that. I daydreamed hard about being quirky, but I really wasn’t. I was awkward and kind of socially paralyzed. I was too self-conscious to dance at parties, and at football games I was even afraid to woo-hoo, as though I might do it wrong! In elementary and middle school, I’d felt very bold and powerful, very much myself, but I lost that in my teens. I wish I could have held onto it somehow.

What, if anything, do you miss most about that time?
My friends, and the good old days when my parents took care of me and life was so easy, before adult concerns—though of course I didn’t appreciate it then!

Every Day I Write the Book

I found it so interesting that you’ve talked about two of your characters—Kizzy (from “Goblin Fruit” in Lips Touch) and Karou—as being similar to your teenage self in some ways, two sides of the coin, as it were.  Kissy, you’ve said, “was my teenage self in a much more direct way…emotionally she was all the big dreams that I had for my life.”  Karou, on the other hand, “was much more the answer to…who I wanted to be.”  Both characters have connected with readers like crazy.  One reviewer noted your intense and “sympathetic understanding of [your] audience,” asking “who as a teenager didn’t feel like a chimera, a mix of seemingly disparate parts forming an uncertain self?”  How do you create your teenage characters, and how do you get the emotional tone so right?  Was writing for and about teens a conscious decision or simply a result of the stories you wanted to tell?
Writing about teens wasn’t a conscious decision. After college, I stopped writing for a long time, for various reasons including not having dealt with my creative hang-ups, and not have discovered my voice as a writer. Time passed and I rediscovered my love of fantasy (thank you Harry Potter!), and when I started writing again, it was middle grade and YA fantasy.

I never even thought about it. I was deeply in love with these books that connect with young readers (and not-so-young) in such a profound way. I’ve since thought a lot about why I’m drawn to write younger characters, and I don’t have a good answer. In so many ways, I still don’t feel like “a grownup,” and in spite of my age, I don’t relate to grownup life all that much. I really don’t know what to make of that!

In a 2013 interview you highlight fantasy’s “ability to universalize themes in a way that lets us look at Big Ideas like war and honor and sacrifice and love…as human themes that are deeply meaningful in our lives, free from the allegiances and prejudices we bring to stories that happen in our real world.”  Both of your series (Dreamdark and Daughter of Smoke and Bone) tackle a number of Big Ideas—war, the power of hope, destiny, the idea of heroes, the search for identity—and I’m wondering if you could talk a little about theme in your own work?  Do you ever set out to tackle a Big Idea in advance or do specific themes present themselves through the story or characters?  What themes tend to resonate most with you, either in your own work or in others?  Is there a particular theme that you’d actively like to explore in the future? 
I don’t really think about themes at the beginning. I’m just telling a story, just following characters. Somewhere in the back rooms of my brain, though, there are strange, wizened alchemists mixing themes together, and drawing lines with string between one thing and another. Making meaning. That stuff happens in the dark, and it’s the best, how it creeps up and surprises you. Meaning! Yay! Thank you, weird shadow-people from the brain alleys!

At some point I begin to see it, and I become more deliberate with it, sculpting the narrative to strengthen ideas as well as plot. There are a set of themes and motifs I find myself returning to over and over again, unconsciously. Self-sacrifice and redemption, impossible choices, the inhumanity of war, family bonds that go beyond blood. It is also very important to note that chocolate has appeared in every one of my books!

I’m trying to figure out how to ask a question about world-building, and how it intersects with your fascinating post on the “Dance of the Known and the Unknown.” Your ability to craft a “well-structured and creative setting…astonishing in both its detail, and the canny way it is woven into the narrative” has been noted by numerous critics, who praise “world-building descriptions…[that] stop your heart,” and the “masterful blending [of] an intricate fantasy world into our own.”  I’m wondering if you could give us a sense of how world-building works for you?  It seems like your “Dance of the Known and the Unknown” started as an explanation of plotting, but the lyrical description is so characteristic of your world-building that I wonder if the idea intersects there as well?    
Yes, definitely! Interesting observation :-).

I try not to do the world-building up front, but prefer to discover it as I go, so that it becomes an organic outgrowth of the storytelling, rather than a set of pre-ordained constraints for the storytelling to navigate. With my Dreamdark books, I did a lot more planning and note-making about the world before I began writing. I have notebooks filled with ideas and inspiration. That was really fun, and I treasure those notebooks, but I can also see that that degree of preparation was motivated by fear of diving into the unknown.

With the Daughter books, and even “Hatchling,” from Lips Touch, I approached it in a really different way, creating situations and characters and then seeing where they took me. Writing that way very much is the dance between the Known and the Unknown!

You host a website that collects past writing essays (from 2007ish) and your regular blog often features musings on the writing process, as well as your answers to questions from aspiring writers.  You’ve talked about the genesis and writing of your Dreamdark books, Lips Touch, and the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, and have been extremely generous with your insight, advice, and honest depiction of life as a writer; clearly you think a lot about the process of writing.  Have you experienced anything truly surprising or unexpected, writing-wise, between your first novel and your current book?  Have you changed your mind about any part of the process over the years?  Have you received any advice along the way that was particularly valuable or pertinent?  And finally, what do you struggle with the most these days and what do you consider to be your greatest strength as a writer?
Great question! I’ve been thinking about this a lot since finishing the trilogy, since it only hit me after the fact how much my process has changed over the course of writing these books. I’ve got a half-written blog post on the subject, and haven’t really put it all into words yet, and probably won’t be able to here, but I’ll try!

Basically, when I got serious about finishing novels (around 2005), I thought I had to plan them out and be in control of them at all times. I had a lot of fear of moving forward into the unknown. I believed that I was a “plotter.” Early in the writing of this series, I did try to plot and plan it out, but it really resisted my efforts. I found I could only see a little way ahead. I had vague ideas for the overall story arc, but no clear and orderly plan, and certainly no outline. This was terrifying but also really freeing.

What I’ve discovered about myself over these five years goes back to that question about the “dance between the Known and the Unknown.” By far most of my story arises from the writing of scenes, from being inside the scene with the characters and letting things happen. It’s a really different headspace than the plotting/outlining headspace, and it feels much more vital and organic, as though the characters are real and alive and I’m not fully in control. It’s magical, the things that happen that I didn’t plan. I love it! The storytelling process ends up feeling to me like swimming from buoy to buoy, with each “buoy” being a story beat I have to reach. Once I do, I can cling to it for a while and catch my breath, take stock, let it sink in. (And also revise and prettify it.) Then when I’m ready, I strike out swimming for the next buoy.

Basically, I’ve learned to have faith in the process. It’s really exciting!

Just Can’t Get Enough

This question comes from Shannon Hale:  “Laini, I don’t just want to read your books, I want to eat them. Your words are delicious. Your scenes are vivid. I feel and smell and experience your stories. I’d love to know a little more about your process. Do you collect words? What’s your process for crafting sentences? How much do your sentences change from first to final draft? And will you secretly revise all my books for me please?”
Oh, Shannon, I feel the same way about your books! *Hug!* Thank you!! I do collect words. In fact, I don’t know that Daughter of Smoke & Bone would exist—at least in anything like the form it does now—if I hadn’t “collected” the word wishbone on the inside cover of a writing notebook shortly before starting it. It was a part of a short list of words I scribbled down for no reason other than that I liked them (along with solstice, disguise, eclipse, and alchemy), and when I found myself, out of nowhere, writing a scene with this blue-haired girl and her monster father, Brimstone ended up wearing a wishbone on a cord around his neck. I have no doubt that this was due to that word being on that list, and it became the key to the story. I heard Susan Cooper speak at a conference once, and she said, “Job number one, for a writer, is to keep a notebook. Job number two: refer to it often.’ This is something I do with great pleasure.

As for writing sentences, oh how I love sentences. For a long time, that’s what “writing” meant to me: crafting sentences. I could happily spend a day on a single sentence, trying out every possibility, polishing it until it was perfect. I actually passed years doing that. It’s a horrible way to try to write a novel! So now I try to find a balance between the love of prose craft and the imperative of storytelling. My happy place is still very much in polishing the prose, so I love to revise.

I don’t have true first drafts because I revise as I go. I can’t move forward unless I love the writing, so I spend a lot of time doing that along the way. It’s incredibly inefficient but my brain needs it. So my “first draft” has already been edited a bajillion times by the time anyone else sees it.

And I’ll revise your books if you revise mine! :-)

Laini has contributed a question for the next author in the series, Marcus Sedgwick.  Watch for an interview with him coming soon!

 

Laini Taylor is the New York Times bestselling author of Dreams of Gods & Monsters, Days of Blood & Starlight, Daughter of Smoke & Bone (a 2012 YALSA Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults), the Dreamdark books Blackbringer and Silksinger, and the National Book Award finalist Lips Touch: Three Times (also a 2009 YALSA Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults).  She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband, illustrator Jim Di Bartolo, and their daughter, Clementine. 

You can find Laini by visiting her website and blog, the Official Daughter of Smoke & Bone tumblr, or by following her on Twitter.

–Julie Bartel, currently reading Midwinterblood by Marcus Segwick and We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Calling All Teens! YALSA announces Teen Blogging Contest for Teen Read Week™

Thu, 05/29/2014 - 07:00

The Hub is thrilled to be a part of YALSA’s Teen Read Week Teen Blogging contest!

Teens aged 12 -18 can sign up now through August 1, 2014 to participate in the contest for a chance to guest blog for YALSA’s young adult literature blog, The Hub. Selected teens will blog about a wide range of topics related to YA literature while also further developing their writing and blogging skills.

Blog posts written by the teen bloggers will be featured during the week of October 12 -18 in celebration of Teen Read Week.   Selected participants will be notified in August.  Visit the Teen Read Week website for all the details and guidelines about the contest. Teen Read Week will be celebrated Oct. 12 -18 this year with the theme “Turn Your Dreams into Reality @ your library.” Join the online discussion with the hashtag #TRW14.

If you’re a teen, we want to hear from you. And if you work with teens, spread the word about this exciting opportunity! We love featuring teen voices on The Hub, and can’t wait for Teen Read Week this year.

-Allison Tran, Hub Manager

What Would They Read? X-Men: Days of Future Past Edition

Wed, 05/28/2014 - 07:00

X-Men: Days of Future Past was certainly the big hit at the box office this holiday weekend, raking in $111 million dollars over four days.

This makes it the fifth biggest Memorial Day weekend opening ever, which is quite the accomplishment for my favorite band of ragtag mutants. We first heard of the premise for Days of Future Past during the credits of the last Wolverine movie. This new X-Men film brings together our old cast of characters that we were introduced to 14 years ago with the new ones from X-Men: First Class (2011), who just happen to be the younger versions of the characters from 14 years ago… Confused yet? Just wait until you get to the end of Days of Future Past. In fact, for an in-depth analysis of the ending to Days of Future Past and its timeline implications, check out this article from Entertainment Weekly.

The basic premise of the film is that the future has gone all-out genocidal on mutants and those that support mutant rights. The government started the Sentinel program as a way to specifically target the mutant gene, and thus kill mutants without collateral damage; however, the program pretty much led to the destruction of humanity as we know it. Pretty bleak future, so the X-Men send Wolverine back in time to try and alter it for the better of mankind and mutants alike. Wolverine is tasked with getting Magneto and Professor X to work together (no small feat there) to stop Raven/Mystique from killing Trask, the founder of the Sentinel program, which is apparently the catalyst for all of the future bad. As with any movie that involves time travel and the butterfly effect, the ending can make your brain hurt while you try to calculate just how much of the original X-Men timeline was impacted by this one movie. Although I have to say even with the brain freeze feeling it left me with, I was pretty satisfied with the whole shebang.

The trailer for the movie is here:

Since the X-Men films in general have never really stuck too close to their source material, I thought it would be more fun to do a “What Would They Read?” list of YA lit for my favorite band of mutants. The characters chosen for the list were the ones heavily featured in this particular film, so I apologize in advance to all of my fellow Rogue fans!

  • Magneto –The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi by Neal Bascomb (2014 YALSA Nonfiction Award) & “The President Has Been Shot!”: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy by James L. Swanson (2014 YALSA Nonfiction FinalistWhen we first encounter Magneto in the film, he is stuck in a concrete prison underneath the Pentagon. For the simple reason that he has copious amounts of time, he gets two books on this list! The Nazi Hunters tells the story of Adolf Eichmann’s capture. Eichmann was the head of operations for the Nazi’s final solution and was finally found in Argentina 16 years later by Israeli spies. Given that Magneto’s background story is deeply entrenched in the WWII era as well as the Nazi concentration camps, this seems like the perfect read for him. Eric/Magneto dedicated his life to righting the wrongs done to him and others in those concentration camps, and it strongly shaped his distrust in governmental organizations. It seems only fitting that he would enjoy the story of how spies and survivors finally brought Eichmann to justice.The second book chosen for Magneto, “The President Has Been Shot!” has more to do with his Days of Future Past plot line and why when we first encounter Magneto he is imprisoned underneath the Pentagon. Let’s just say that he would definitely enjoy this dramatic retelling of the events surrounding the Kennedy assassination. 
  • Professor X – Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman (2010 YALSA Nonfiction Award)
    Given his professorial role throughout the X-Men series, it seemed necessary to pick a non-fiction title for Charles even though his school for the gifted is closed at the start of the film. Seriously, the 1970s were not a good time for Professor X. This title seemed fitting for Xavier since his academic interests most certainly align with mutations and the theory of evolution. Charles and Emma delves into the personal life of Charles Darwin, author of The Origin of Species. Darwin, an atheist scientist married his adored cousin Emma who was quite religious. It’s an interesting look into how Darwin’s personal life impacted the professional and vice versa. This idea of a struggle between two people who clearly loved one another really resonates when you think of Professor X and Magneto. They clearly have affection for each other as friends and yet they do have fundamental philosophical differences. How do you reconcile that? Maybe this book will help our Professor X answer that question for himself.
  • Wolverine – Phoenix Island by John Dixon
    What sounds more like Wolverine then a story about an orphaned champion boxer stuck in a sadistic, militaristic boot camp?! Carl Freeman has a problem, and it’s punching people who pick on the little guys. This is the entire reason he ends up on Phoenix Island, and it’s the reason he fights so hard to get off the island. Wolverine definitely likes to pretend he doesn’t care about much, but the man does travel all the way back to the 1970s in the hopes of saving all of his friends. It seems like the perfect machismo book for him to read.
  • Beast – Shiver series by Maggie Stiefvater (2010 YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers) Beast is a scientist whose experiments cause him to essentially hulk out into a big blue beast. He’s a gentle soul who can kick some serious butt when necessary to save his friends. This definitely makes me think of Sam and Cole in the Shiver series by Stiefvater. The Shiver trilogy is the story of the werewolves in Mercy Falls, Minnesota. Sam and Grace are the central love story although they never seem to be able to stay human at the same time for very long. Beast starts out more like the character of Sam, trying to find a way to stay human and not a werewolf so he can be with his ladylove Grace. But then there is the whole part where the science goes a little wonky and he turns full on blue mutant and is now a little bit more like the science guy Cole trying to solve problems like Professor X’s spinal injury. Although, you could say Beast shoulders a lot of responsibility, for the mutants and the Professor, which is again more like Sam.
  • Raven/Mystique – This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith
    Mystique seems so lonely and lost in this film that I felt compelled to pick a really happy book for her. It just seemed necessary! Hopefully the tale of Hollywood superstar Graham and small town girl Ellie’s meet cute romance will cheer our blue girl up. It’s just a really sweet story about two teenagers who couldn’t be farther apart finding the right person for the perfect first romance.

What about you readers, do you have any book recommendations for the  X-Men? What did you think of Days of Future Past?

-Katie Shanahan Yu, currently reading The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith

Jukebooks: Buzz Kill by Beth Fantaskey

Wed, 05/28/2014 - 07:00

Millie is at another of Honeywell High School’s boring football games. The football coach, “Hollerin’ Hank” Kildare, was screaming so loud that his neck veins stood out and spittle flew at the unfortunate quarterback of the Honeywell Stingers. When Millie’s father, the assistant coach, tried to step in, Kildare almost punched him. This guy’s a nut job, Millie thinks, idling doodling a picture of Hollerin’ Hank with a knife in his chest. Then she amused herself by making a list of the people who’d like to see him dead.

Of course her dad was on the list.

One year later, Millie herself discovers the dead body of Hollerin’ Hank Kildare. She thinks back to her list. She remembers her dad’s name on that list. Millie vows that she will track down the killer herself, if only to keep her dad clear of suspicion.

In a more traditional interpretation of the phrase “buzz kill,” Luke Bryan sings about the follies of falling for a gorgeous but obviously superficial kind of girl in combination with beer that really should have been poured out.

-Diane Colson, currently reading The Riverman by Aaron Starmer

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