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Your Connection to Teen Reads
Updated: 1 day 56 min ago

Genre Guide: Westerns for Teens

Tue, 11/18/2014 - 07:00

By Grant-Kohrs Ranch Historic Collection, bought by the National Park Service in 1972 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Traditional western novels denote a sense of the “Old West” as defined as a time period of American history from about the 17th century to the early 20th century where new settlers dealt with the harsh landscape, lawlessness, and/or the loner who exacts vengeance in the name of doing what is right. For westerns that are written for teens, however, they don’t always follow all the typical western tropes, but most commonly some of these themes are paired with the main character or characters coming of age through the story.

Authors to Know

There aren’t many authors who are well-known for writing westerns for teens, however here are some of the more well-known western authors:

  • Loius L’Amour
  • Zane Grey
  • Larry McMurtry
  • Cormac McCarthy


The setting of western novels usually deem that they be set in western America.  However, westerns can take place in other geographical settings where the landscape may mimic that of the “Old West.”  So, it can be a landscape where there is a search for a valuable mineral or material, or there are desolate conditions that are hard to survive, or it is a new land that settlers must figure out how to tame.  Whatever the case, a richly detailed landscape is one of the main characteristics of a western novel.  Also, a civilized society does not exist in most western novels, usually because the land has been uninhabited and it has yet to be developed. Traditionally, western novels are set in the time period of the “Old West,” but when it comes to western novels written for teens, they do not need to be set in a historically accurate time.  They can be set in the past, alternate past, present, and even future.

Main characters of western novels are typically male.  If there is a female main character, she is usually a strong one.  The main characters are traditionally the heroes of the story, and you are not always sure that they will survive until the end of the book.  Plots of western novels for teens can include a lone character seeking justice, a type of good guy versus bad guy standoff, or even land disputes and lawlessness.  Additionally, though not always common, westerns for teens can include the genres of romance and dystopia.  One thing is for sure, though, action and adventure are a must and there is always an ultimate showdown in the end!

Appeal and Readers

The appeal of westerns to teen readers is not as wide as other genres.  Generally, a teen can be sold on a western if they are looking for a story with lots of action and adventure and/or a story where the good guy prevails and justice is carried out.  Westerns can appeal to both male and female readers, though the more traditional western novels appeal more to male readers.


Trends for westerns written for teens include setting the western in a future dystopian society.  A prime example of this is Moira Young’s Dustlands series.  In Young’s future world, the land has been ravaged and Saba and her family scavenge to survive.  Saba’s brother is kidnapped and in order to save him, Saba must fight for her life in a violent city ruled by an evil King.


Reference Books

Read the High Country: a Guide to Western Books and Film by John Mort (Libraries Unlimited, 2006)

A Few Good Books: Using Contemporary Readers Advisory Strategies to Connect Readers with Books by Stephanie L. Maatta (Neal-Schuman Publishers, 2010)

The Readers’ Advisory Guide to Genre Fiction by Joyce G. Saricks (American Library Association, 2009)


Most publishers for teens will publish westerns, though there are not a high number of traditional western novels being published for teens at this time.


The Spur Awards have Juvenile Fiction and Nonfiction categories.
The Willa Awards have a Children’s/Young Adult Fiction & Nonfiction category.
There are also the Western Heritage Awards which have a Juvenile Category.

Recommended Titles

— Colleen Seisser, currently reading Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

When Friends Become Family

Mon, 11/17/2014 - 07:00

As we draw close to Thanskgiving, we often turn our thoughts and plans to family. While there are YA characters who have strong families, as Jessica’s 2012 post  and Kelly’s post from last week shows, there are also lots of YA books where the protagonists have either lost family members, been separated from them, or never had a proper family to begin with. This doesn’t mean these characters have no family relationships, though. Lots of YA characters, when faced with a lack of a regular family, create their own. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Ellie and her friends in the Tomorrow series by John Marsden (the movie version was chosen as a Fabulous Film for Young Adults 2013). This action packed series, which starts with Tomorrow, When the War Began follows a group of Australian teenagers who go away for a camping trip and come back to find their country has been invaded. As the plot unfolds, the friends rely on each other more and more to be both fellow soldiers determined to take back their homes and a family that both provides emotional support and takes on the everyday tasks of making a place to live. I especially like that the last book in the series, The Other Side of Dawn, deals with the difficulty of reintegrating with their parents after the enforced separation and self-sufficiency, and the companion series, The Ellie Chronicles, continues to explore the toll that war takes on families, both given and self-made. Although I haven’t yet read them, I think Emmy Laybourne’s Monument 14 series (2014 Teens’ Top Ten) covers some of the same ground in terms of a family forged out of necessity. 
  • Similarly, Katniss, Peeta, and Haymitch form a family over the course of the Hunger Games trilogy (2009 Best Books for Young Adults and Ultimate YA Bookshelf). While Katniss still has her birth family, the experiences of the arena form a connection between her and her fellow champions that is different, and in some ways, deeper, than with her own family. Particularly in Catching Fire, Peeta’s galvanization of the other two to prepare adequately for the Quarter Quell games serves to draw the three together tightly.
  • In less dire circumstances, Alice McKinley and her friends Elizabeth, Pamela, and Gwen from Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s Alice series form the kind of family ties that many teens share with their friends. Alice is lucky to have a supportive family backing her up, but even they can’t always provide everything she needs, and she turns to her friends. Pamela in particular faces lots of challenges from her own family, so her friends support her when family falls short.
  • And finally, it may be cliche, but I can’t help but mention Harry Potter. While the most obvious instance of family this series is the tight-knit Weasley family, and the fact that they essentially adopt Harry as one of them makes a huge difference in Harry’s life. But beyond joining the Weasleys, Harry also builds up his own wider family: first, with his tight friendship with Ron and Hermione, and support from those adults like Hagrid and Professor Dumbledore who are looking out for him. Later, his ability to draw a wider circle of friends through “Dumbledore’s Army” proves important in Harry’s quest to finish Voldemort.

So, what are you favorite YA characters whose friendships forge them into a family? Which YA characters would you like to adopt into your family?

-Libby Gorman, currently rereading the Harry Potter series and reading The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen

How To Read: Step by Step Instructions to Pleasure Reading

Mon, 11/17/2014 - 07:00

Reading for your own enjoyment takes practice. I know it sounds a little crazy– but folks practice their hobbies all the time and why should recreational reading be any different? It can be hard today to turn off distractions and just read. So here is a practical guide; follow it and you will soon find yourself enjoying reading. And for those of you reading this post who don’t need any help in this regard, I invite you to share your tips for happy reading.

Step 1: Pick book.

This is one of the hardest steps of the process. But fear not, you can handle it. There are so many ways to choose a book: pretty cover, friend recommendation, favorite author, saw the movie, library/book store display, read about it somewhere (twitter, instagram, facebook, tumblr, pinterest), heard about it somewhere, random browsing, librarian recommendation, teacher recommendation, it’s your favorite book and you want to read it for the tenth time darn it, read a review, literary awards, found it (in a rental vacation house and in the plane seat flap next to the barf bag perhaps), it’s a classic you’ve been meaning to read, and so on… Point being, any reason to pick a book is a good one if it works for you.  Some other resources that are helpful in finding books:

As you are selecting books, keep an open mind (even on books you did not like in the past.)

It may also be helpful decide what you want to get from your reading experience. According to research most people who read for pleasure to do for one of three reasons.

  1.  to check reality
  2.  to escape
  3.  to learn specific skills or information

Recommendations by reading types:

Reality Check:



  • The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi by Neal Bascomb (2014 Nonfiction Award Winner)
  • Bootleg: Murder, Moonshine, and the Lawless Years of Prohibition by Karen Blumenthal (2011 Reader’s Choice Nomination)
  • Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles, America’s First Black Paratroopers by Tanya Lee Stone
  • Bomb: The Race to Build–and Steal–the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin (2013 Nonfiction Book Award Winner)
  • The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming



Of course, any good book should and will fit into more than one category!

Step 2: Obtain Book(s)

I recommend you get at least five books to choose from (ideally from your public library.)  Be sure to check your library’s online catalog (it will be on the library website) if you have specific titles in mind– you may have to put something on hold. Get books for free as much as possible! If you have luck like mine, you will put ten books on hold at the library and they will all come in at the same time when you cannot possibly finish them all in time. Fear not! They can be returned and checked out again and renewed. This is all permissible. If you really need to own books check out discount sites and/or consider buying used books to save money.

Step 3: Prepare to Read

Look at your pile of five books. Smile. Choose one to start with– don’t overthink it. Make your distractions go away. Go to the bathroom. If you are hungry bring a light snack, try not to spill it on your book. Brew a cup a tea or coffee if you like. Find a comfy seat (inside or outside, upstairs or downstairs). Adjust temperature as needed (bring a blanket if you tend to get chilly).

Step 4: Read.

Begin book. If you are enjoying it, great! Continue on. When you done with your book repeat steps 1 through 4. If you are not sure about the book –use your best judgment to decide when to throw in the towel. Read as many pages as you think gives you a good enough idea if you will enjoy this book. For me this has been as few as 7 and as many as 315 pages. Some books are great right off the bat, but some take several chapters to build up to the good stuff. If you aren’t enjoying the book after a reasonable amount of pages- put it down and move on to the next one in your pile. Go ahead, it’s OK.  The book doesn’t have any feelings to hurt. Repeat above steps.

Stuff to Avoid

Forgetting about your Life

Finals coming up? Just start a new job? Got a new puppy? Running a marathon next week? None of these life events means you shouldn’t read for fun. In fact, stressful times call for an enjoyable read even more! But know yourself and your limits. Is this the time to tackle something really heavy ? Or is it more of a fun light reading kind of time in your life?

Pushy People

It can happen that someone in your life insists you read something. Hey, now folks–don’t be pushy. No one should strong-arm you into reading anything– and (unless it’s an assignment) you should never keep reading a book you are not enjoying at all. Just because Aunt Judy loved that book, doesn’t mean you will–or won’t. When faced with a pushy reader: listen politely, smile, and jot down the title. Make no promises. Just because someone loans you a book does not mean you are obliged to read it.


Avoiding a book because you are too embarrassed to be seen reading it.  The only one who should judge your book is you. If somebody else is so interested chances are they aren’t reading anything (otherwise why would they be looking at your book?)   You can always read on an e-reader (such as a kindle or nook) which does not show the cover (ask your local public librarian to show you how  you can borrow e-books from the library.)  This advice comes to you from a woman who shamelessly read Captain Underpants on the New York City subway while six months pregnant.

“But I don’t have time to read!”

You’ve heard this before. Maybe you’ve said it. But I say there is always some time you can find to read. Yes there is. Watch one less sitcom in the evening and read for half an hour instead. Wake up early and read over your first cup of coffee. Waiting anywhere is an ideal time to crack open your book (bring it with you wherever you go and you will find yourself not minding waiting at the doctors, post office, or on that long like at the store.)  Read on your lunch hour.  Commuters: read on the train or bus. And don’t forget audiobooks! Listen to books while driving, exercising, doing dishes, cooking, cleaning, organizing, getting dressed, cleaning the attic, etc. It’s a great way to multitask and enjoy (otherwise) mundane activities.

Ready? OK, go!


-Tara Kehoe, currently reading Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

The Monday Poll: Most Believable Post-Apocalyptic YA Lit

Sun, 11/16/2014 - 23:48

Good morning, Hub readers!

Last week, in honor of Veteran’s Day, we asked for your favorite YA book depicting the the veteran experience. The top pick, with 44% of the vote, was Laurie Halse Anderson’s most recent release, The Impossible Knife of Memory. It was followed by Gary D. Schmidt’s Okay For Now, with 23% of the vote. You can see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive. Thanks to all of you who voted!

This week, on a totally different note, we want to know which version of a post-apocalyptic world in YA lit you think is the most believable. Do you think society will crumble and stay that way? Will it be rebuilt as a dystopia with an evil leader? Will people be able to breathe the air outside after the big event happens? Will there be zombies? Vote in the poll below, or add your choice in the comments if we missed it.

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

We Need Diverse Books: Spotlight on Benjamin Alire Saenz

Fri, 11/14/2014 - 07:00

Last month, I began a series devoted to highlighting diversity within YA literature in an effort to support the We Need Diverse Books campaign–check out my first post in the series for more information and to read about Sara Farizan’s novels. This month, I thought I’d focus on another critically acclaimed YA writer, Benjamin Alire Saenz, an award-winning author (2013 Printz Honor!) and poet.

A remarkably unique voice in YA literature, Saenz draws heavily from his own experiences as a young Chicano boy growing up on the Mexico/New Mexico border in the 1960s. His work also often deals with sexuality and homophobia, a result of Saenz’ own struggles with coming out which he did quite late in life. His intersecting themes of race, culture, class, and sexuality certainly make his novels stand out amongst the YA canon but it is not this alone that makes him so noteworthy.

To put it simply, Saenz is a master craftsman. He writes prose imbued with such soulful, heart-aching lyricism that it’s impossible not to be drawn into the layered lives he depicts. Consider the opening passage from his novel Last Night I Sang to the Monster (2011 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults):

I want to gather up all the words in the world and write them down on little pieces of paper–then throw them in the air. They would look like tiny sparrows flying toward the sun. Without all those words, the sky would be clear and perfect and blue. The deafening world would be beautiful in all that silence.

The novel is about a teenage boy, Zach, who finds himself in a rehab center for reasons he can’t exactly remember. The story unfolds in bits and pieces as he tries to unravel his past and make peace with the tragic events leading up to his present circumstances. Given the fact that the book deals with issues as varied as child sexual abuse, drug and alcohol addiction, depression, and suicide, it may come as a surprise that it is also breathtakingly beautiful. Indeed, the passage above captures some of the poetic sensibility that is inherent in all of Saenz’ works and that elevates his books from mere stories to magic. It’s no surprise that Saenz is also an award-winning poet, a fact that explain why when I read his novels, I find myself so often pausing to savor a particular phrase or paragraph for its seemingly effortless eloquence.

In fact, it’s the combination of effortlessness and eloquence that makes his novels both immensely readable and accessible to teens and adults alike. His lyricism, although clearly well-crafted, never feels contrived or overwrought. Perhaps, more importantly–given that his novels tend to be in first-person narration–it also doesn’t feel unbelievable that a teenage boy would be speaking in such a way. Take 17-year-old Sammy Santos, in Sammy & Juliana in Hollywood (2005 Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults), a young man who finds himself desperately in love with Juliana, a girl from his barrio, in 1969. His voice is an appealing blend of minimalism and elegance that somehow captures the tone and spirit of a boy on the brink of manhood at a time rife with upheaval, injustice, and hope.

In one of my favorite passages from the book, Sammy is sitting with friends discussing what they would do when (more likely if) they leave the dirt-poor barrio they call ‘Hollywood’. Pifas has just announced that he’s enlisted in the Army, essentially a death sentence for a poor Chicano boy at the height of the Vietnam War.  Their friend Gigi announces she’d like to sing to everyone’s surprise. Sammy’s description of her singing sheds light on both his character as well as illustrates Saenz’ lovely use of description:

God, she could sing. And in the moonlight, she didn’t seem like a girl at all. She was a woman with a voice. Any man would die just to hear that voice. I swear–just to hear it. I thought the world had stopped to listen to Gigi–Gigi Carmona from Hollywood. I could see tears rolling down Pifas’ face. As pure as Gigi’s voice. I could feel those wings inside me again–like they were coming back to life, like all they needed was just one beautiful song for them to get up and beating again….Maybe this was the way the world should end. Not with me and my own thoughts, not with high school boys using their fists on each other, not with Pifas going off to war–but with the tears of boys falling to the beat of a woman’s song, the sounds of guns and bombs and fists against flesh disappearing. This is the way the world should end: with boys turning into men as they listen to a woman sing.

If you read all of Saenz’ YA books (which I highly recommend), a few similarities become readily apparent. For one, there is a powerful poignancy, even melancholy, that underlies all of his work. His characters are outsiders, introverts, alone within worlds of pain that they must come to understand before they can find some measure of peace and happiness. In all cases, it is language that enables them to find redemption from the pain of loss, the cruelty of discrimination, and the relentless pressures of growing up other. Fundamentally, though, Saenz’s novels are about love. Love in the broadest sense–from love of family to first love to love of place–each book revolves around the varied forms of love and the weight of it in our lives.

Love, in all its complexity, is at the heart of Saenz’s most recent and arguably most famous novel, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (2013 Printz Honor Book, 2013 Stonewall Award Winner). On the surface, it is the story of friendship between two very different Mexican-American teenage boys, Ari and Dante. At its core, though, the novel is about learning how to love; a theme that resonates throughout all of Saenz’s novels. It is clear that the protagonists of all his books are lost, often angry, always afraid and, given their circumstances, it makes sense that they feel this way. To come back to the idea of diversity and discrimination, it is difficult to both give and receive love in a world that alternately disdains and dismisses you. To love in the face of violence, self-doubt, helplessness, and prejudice is an act of great courage.

Ari’s journey in Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is one of self-discovery, as he navigates how to love and be loved. At one point in the book, he says, “And I knew that there was something about me that Mrs. Quintana saw and loved. And even though I felt it was a beautiful thing, I also felt it was a weight. Not that she meant it to be a weight. But love was always something heavy for me. Something I had to carry.” As Ari shows us throughout the course of the novel, it takes courage to carry that weight, to embrace it not as a burden but a blessing. Ari comes to realize that the act of loving is a kind of freedom, even a revolution, despite all that society might tell you to the contrary.

I hope you take the time to read one of Benjamin Alire Saenz’s compelling works as you will walk away with a feeling both of weight and wonder at the power of his words. Thanks for reading!

~Alegria Barclay, currently reading Time’s Edge by Rysa Walker

Tweets of the Week: November 14

Fri, 11/14/2014 - 07:00

Are you attending the YA Lit Symposium this weekend? Be sure to tweet all about it with hashtag #yalit14!  Here’s the latest happenings this week on Twitter…

Books and Reading

Pop Culture, TV and Movies

Libraries and Librarianship

Just for Fun

We Are Family: Sibling Stories in YA Lit

Thu, 11/13/2014 - 07:00

I did not begin my career as an older sister on a very positive note. In fact, it is difficult to find an video of my brother’s infant years without having the footage interrupted by a bouncing three-year-old who springs into the frame to sing out some variation of “Look at me!”

Happily, despite some rough patches, my relationship with my brother is one of the most stable and significant aspects of my life.  He’s my friend, fellow sci-fi television & folk music fan, joint owner of favorite childhood books, cooking idol, and one of my all around favorite people on the planet. Consequently, I have a soft spot for stories featuring siblings.  Just as there are many different kinds of families and individuals, so too are there many different kinds of sibling relationships and all are complex & fascinating.

Personal Effects – E.M. Kokie (2013 Best Fiction For Young Adults; 2013 Rainbow List)

Since his beloved big brother T.J. was killed in action in Iraq, Matt has been moving through his quickly collapsing life in a daze.  Between failing classes, getting in fights at school, and trying to avoid his dad’s anger and disappointment, Matt feels like his purpose disappeared with T.J.  But when his brother’s personal effects are finally delivered, Matt is convinced that he might finally be able to understand T.J.’s death.  But T.J.’s possessions contain certain shocking revelations that force Matt to wonder how well he really knew his brother.

Imaginary Girls – Nova Ren Suma (2014 Outstanding Books for the College Bound)

It isn’t uncommon for younger siblings to believe that their elder sisters are extraordinary, but Chloe knows she’s far from the only person to recognize that her sister Ruby’s someone special. Ruby is the girl that everyone longs to touch–the girl everyone wants to be.  When Ruby wants something to happen, it does.  She’s untamable, unpredictable, and almost unbelievable.  But after a night out with Ruby & her friends went horribly wrong, Chloe was sent away. Now, two years later, they’re reunited–but Chloe can’t help wondering exactly how far Ruby was willing to go to get her back. 

I’ll Give You The Sun – Jandy Nelson

At age thirteen, twins Noah and Jude were inseparable.  But as introverted Noah was sketching furiously and falling in  love with the boy next door and daring Jude was surfing & testing their mother’s patience with her fashion choices, something began to shift–and then everything fell apart. Three years later, they barely speak to each other.  Noah doesn’t draw or daydream anymore while Jude attempts to become invisible.  Can unexpected encounters with a heart-broken sculptor and a cocky, damaged photographer finally force Jude & Noah to confront the painful secrets they’ve been hiding from each other?

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before – Jenny Han

Lara Jean loves being one of the Song sisters.  Sandwiched between the dependable Margot and mischievous Kitty, Lara Jean feels secure playing the supporting role of shy & quirky middle sister.  But now Margot is heading off to Scotland for college and Lara Jean must try to become the family caretaker.  Then Lara Jean’s secret stash of letters composed to past crushes are mistakenly mailed out.  Suddenly, Lara Jean must also navigate her shifting relationships with the first boy she kissed, the boy next door (who’s also Margot’s ex-boyfriend), and her beloved sisters.

Summer of the Mariposas – Guadalupe Garcia McCall (2013 Amelia Bloomer List)

Odilia and her four sisters find a dead man floating in their favorite swimming spot in the Rio Grande, they immediately begin to debate their best course of action.  Call the police? Plan for their inevitable television appearances? They decide to return the man’s body to his family in Mexico–and perhaps see their grandmother, who might know where their father has gone since leaving their family behind almost a year ago.  Assisted by the ghostly La Llorona, the sisters embark on an epic journey and face supernatural dangers including witches, warlocks, and even chupacabras.

See You At Harry’s – Jo Knowles (2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults2013 Rainbow List)

Fern is sick and tired of her overcrowded and exhausting family. Between grumpy eighteen year old Sara stuck helping at the family restaurant Harry’s, unhappy Holden starting high school with new secrets, and annoying three year old Charlie, Fern mostly feels like she’s invisible. To make things worse, her dad starts his newest deeply embarrassing marketing campaign for Harry’s just weeks before Fern starts seventh grade. However, when a tragedy turns all of their lives upside down, Fern must find her place in a world that will never be the same and within family that’s falling apart.

Sisters – Raina Telgemeier

When she first learned she was going to be a big sister, Raina was thrilled.  But from the first time her parents bring infant Amara home, Raina finds her high expectations for sisterhood difficult to meet, especially when Amara grows from a grouchy baby into a particular toddler who prefers to play alone.  Several years and one younger brother later, their relationship hasn’t gotten much better but as they head out for a family road trip with the sense that something strange is going on between their parents, Raina & Amara slowly realize that they have more in common than they think.

Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie – Jordan Sonnenblick (2005 YALSA Teens’ Top Ten)

Thirteen year old Steven lives a fairly ordinary but generally contented life.  He plays drums, he has a crush on the most popular girl in eighth grade, and he is constantly trying to negotiate life with his adorable but occasionally embarrassing five year old brother Jeffery.  Then Jeffery is diagnosed with leukemia and everything about Steven’s life becomes the opposite of ordinary. Overwhelmed by the terrifying reality of Jeffery’s illness, his parents’ very different reactions to the situation, and his own constantly shifting cycle of emotions, Steven struggles to remain the good older brother he’s always tried to be.

-Kelly Dickinson, currently reading The Word Exchange by Alena Graedon and Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins

Jukebooks: The Carnival at Bray by Jessie Ann Foley

Wed, 11/12/2014 - 07:00

It’s 1993. Maggie is being uprooted from everything that she knows and loves: Chicago, comfort television, and the enthralling attention of her Uncle Kevin. Now she is an ocean away, trudging through the rain at a carnival in a small town by the Irish Sea. Why? Because Maggie’s mom has met another man, and this time she married him. Despite her loneliness, Maggie comes to love the people of Bray, particularly a handsome lad named Eion.

Even as life is growing richer for Maggie, Uncle Kevin is hitting a downward spiral. It is because of Keven that Maggie and Eion take off to Rome, to see Nirvana play in concert. Maggie screamed until all that came out was, “a joyous gurgling sound.” Despite the huge trouble resulting from their impromptu trip, Maggie and Eion plan to see Nirvana when they come to Dublin. Kurt Cobain killed himself before this concert could take place.

Like Janis Joplin in last week’s Jukebooks, Kurt Cobain is a member of the “27 Club.” This is an admittedly morbid allusion to a group of musicians who died at the age of 27. The idea came about when five musicians (Brian Jones, Alan Wilson, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison) all died within a two year span, all at the age of 27. Cobain, and later, Amy Winehouse, are also included in this very undesirable club.

Here is Nirvana, singing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in Rome, 1994.

-Diane Colson, currently reading Teen Spirit by Francesca Lia Block

YALSA YA Lit Symposium: The Student Perspective

Tue, 11/11/2014 - 07:00

Are you getting excited? YALSA’s YA Literature Symposium in Austin is just a few days away! 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’ve been featuring interviews with Symposium attendees past and present to give you a picture of why you should attend and what to expect.

Our final interview features Alyson Feldman-Piltch, who shares with us the valuable perspective of a library school student. 

What was the most memorable thing about the YA Lit Symposium you attended?

This was the very first conference ever attended, so that in itself makes it fairly memorable.  I just remember being in awe that I was in the same room as all these authors- and that they actually wanted to talk to me; and that other people wanted to talk to me too!  I was nervous that as a student I wasn’t going to fit in, but I talked to people, made some contacts, and even keep in touch with a few!

What was your favorite author experience/presentation at the Symposium?

Right before I came to the Symposium I had read No Crystal Stair by Vaunda Michaeux Nelson.  Since I had never been to a conference before, I had no idea if I would actually get a chance to interact with the authors, so I wrote her a letter thanking her for sharing her family’s story and telling her how much I appreciated her book.  In the hubbub of some mixer, I handed her the note and just sort of walked on my way, but later on she came up to me and thanked me for my note.  I was totally on cloud nine.

Since you attended your first Symposium as a library school student, tell us a little about what that was like. Is the Symposium a good experience for students?

One of the reasons that I think smaller conferences and symposiums are important- especially for students- is because it gives you the opportunity to meet others in the field.  At Annual, you may never see the same random person twice, but at events like the Symposium, you get to interact with people on a more one on one basis.   There are group discussions in sessions, and people really get the opportunity to hear one another.  It’s a great networking opportunity.

Additionally, the Symposium, allows you to focus a more specific theme- Young Adult Literature.  The amount of information allows you to really look at what the is in store for YA Librarians and the field, and gives students the opportunity to see if this is a topic they are truly interested in pursuing without necessarily taking a class or even trying a job out!

Let’s talk practical tips– of all the great offerings at the Symposium, how do you decide what to attend? How do you plan out your schedule?

For me, I look for topics that will interest me the most.  My focus of study is in multicultural literature, so I will also scan through to see if there are sessions that can relate to that or cross cultural communication.  Then, I go through and see if there are any sessions on certain trends or themes.  At the last Symposium, that included a panel on Australian authors, and how to incorporate technology into your teen literacy programming.  Finally, I go through and see if there are any about topics I don’t get to hear about often, or are unique.  When we were in St. Louis, it was getting to hear teenage boys speak first hand about finding lit that speaks to them.  After all of that, then I sort of go through all the ones I pick and prioritize between the ones that overlap, and try to establish a game plan.

Which session are you most looking forward to at this year’s Symposium?

There are a lot. But honestly? R.L. Stine because dude scared the bejesus out of me as a kid.  I still have nightmares about the cover of the Night of the Living Dummy: Monster Edition.

Thanks, Alyson! Smooth travels to Austin!

The Monday Poll: Your YA Lit Pick for Veteran’s Day

Mon, 11/10/2014 - 00:01

Good morning, Hub readers!

Last week, we asked you to weigh in on which characters from different YA books should meet. 56% of you would like to see a get-together between Tris from Veronica Roth’s Divergent and Katniss from Suzanne Collins The Hunger Games. They would probably have a lot to chat about! Another popular choice, with 18% of the vote, was Glory from Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A.S. King and Frankie from E. Lockhart’s The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. You can see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive. Thanks to all of you who voted!

This week, the United States pauses to honor our war veterans by observing Veteran’s Day on November 11. In honor of those who have served, what is your favorite YA book that addresses the veteran experience?  Vote in the poll below, or add your choice in the comments if we missed it.

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