Summer vacation is drawing to a close, but whether you have time to squeeze in one last trip or you just have time to remember the trips you already took, it’s always fun to curl up with a good book about vacation spots. Both YA and picture books abound with these stories, and here are some suggestions if you need a last (literary) getaway for the summer.
YA Pick: The Moon by Night by Madeleine L’Engle (1998 Margaret A. Edwards award winner)
This is still the quintessential camping book to me–the book that still makes me imagine I will one day take my family on a cross-country camping trip, seeing all the great national parks out west. The Moon by Night follows the Austin family (from, among others, Meet the Austins and A Ring of Endless Light) as they make just such a trip, but the vacation gets especially interesting for Vicky when she inadvertently picks up an admirer with a bad boy streak and the romantic plan to pursue her across the country. Vicky’s interactions with Zachary, her family’s disapproval, her upcoming move to New York City, and her ordinary growing up struggles are all on Vicky’s mind in the midst of enjoying the astounding beauty of her surroundings.
YA Pick: Patiently Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
I’ve loved the Alice series since I was a kid, and this is one that stands out as being a good mix of fun and serious issues. Alice, Pamela, and Elizabeth decide to spend part of their summer as assistant counselors for a camp for disadvantaged kids. Their camping experience is a mixture of learning how to handle all sorts of issues (including racial issues) with their young charges and counselor hijinks during their breaks. There’s less romance for Alice than in other installments of the series, but Elizabeth has a summer romance that can keep the romantically-inclined reading!
Picture Book: Carl’s Summer Vacation by Alexandra Day
Lovable Rottweiler Carl gets into adventures with his young charge, Madeleine (now getting to be less of a baby and more of a little girl) while they are supposed to be napping on the back porch of the family’s summer cabin. They enjoy a boat trip (until the boat overturns!), berry picking (before they have to run away from a family of skunks), time on the playground, and sneaking a snack from another family’s picnic. When it’s time to get up for dinner and fireworks, Madeleine’s parents can’t understand why the buddies are so tired. If you enjoy this, there are lots of other Carl episodes.
Picture Book: Lost in the Woods: A Photographic Fantasy by Carl R. Sams, II, and Jean Stoick (2005 Independent Publisher Book Award Winner, Children’s Picture Books 6 and under). This isn’t so much a camping story as a story that might inspire young readers to get out into the woods. This husband-and-wife team are nature photographers who took the beautiful, up-close photos that make up the pictures, then created a story to go along with them. Readers follow a young fawn as he waits for his mother. Other animals are sure the fawn is lost, but the fawn knows he’s just supposed to wait…
YA Pick: The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen
As she spends the last summer before college in her hometown of Colby, NC, Emaline faces unexpected twists in her family, her love life, and her personal goals. She’s accepted to Columbia, but has to settle for the closer state school when her birth father goes back on an offer to help pay; she has a steady boyfriend, but the relationship ends unexpectedly; and she has a job she likes, but her summer is turned upside down by the arrival of a documentary filmmaker from New York. Dessen’s fans will enjoy the return to a familiar setting, and Emaline’s struggles will resonate with anyone who’s been through, or is anticipating, the transition from high school to college.
YA Pick: September Girls by Bennett Madison (2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults). After his mom abandons the family, Sam’s father takes him and his older brother to the Outer Banks of North Carolina for “a summer you’ll never forget!” Sam doesn’t know what he thinks of all this manly togetherness, and things get even stranger when they reach the beach. Beautiful blond girls are everywhere–everywhere–and they all seem interested in Sam (not the normal course of events, especially when his brother is around). As Sam gets to know one Girl in particular, DeeDee, he starts to learn that these girls really aren’t normal. With echoes of The Little Mermaid (the Andersen fairy tale, not the Disney version), and colorful portrayals of male-female relationships (not just the romantic kind), this is a summer read that will stick with you.
YA Pick: The Summer Boys and Summer Girls series, by Hailey Abbott
Those looking for the perfect escapist beach read need look no further. Cousins Ella, Beth, Jamie, and Kelsi, and later Jessica, Lara, and Greer, come to their family’s regular beach rentals in Maine each summer looking for fun, parties, and above all boys. Drama and romance abound, and the bonds that grow between the cousins are as much a part of the story as their romantic endeavors.
Picture Book: Harry by the Sea by Gene Zion, pictures by Margaret Bloy Graham
Fans of Harry the Dirty Dog will enjoy this further adventure of Harry and his (nameless) family as they go to the beach. Harry gets into some seaweed and manages to scare sunbathers all up and down the beach who think he’s a bizarre sea monster. The sea monster aspect makes this fun read a big hit with my kids.
Picture Book: The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen, pictures by Dan Hanna
Ok, so this book isn’t actually a beach book, but it is a great summer read that refers to many of the creatures that might come up in beachy conversations. Add to that the fun of getting kids to say the refrain (it’s a rhyming book) with you in their poutiest voices and you’ve got a winner. Be warned that the fish overcomes his gloominess by becoming a “kiss-kiss” fish, so some readers may be let down by the ending (or feel that it warrants shrieking and running around)!
YA Pick: Are We There Yet? by David Levithan (2009 Popular Paperback for Young Adults)
Two brothers get tricked into traveling in Italy together: Elijah, a soon-to-be senior is laid-back to the extreme, while his older brother Danny has just finished college and is obsessed with his advertising job. Against the beautiful backdrop of Venice, Florence, and Rome, readers learn why the brothers drifted apart and start to see them come back together again.
YA Pick: Plague in the Mirror by Deborah Noyes
After her parents’ divorce, May agrees to spend the summer before her senior year in Florence with her best friend, Liam, and his mom, who is a travel guide researcher. The trip quickly veers away from an average summer-in-Europe experience when May encounters the ghost of a girl, named Cristofana, who looks exactly like May. Cristofana lures May into the Florence she knows, Florence of 1348–right before the Black Death strikes the city. This book has an interesting mix of paranormal, romance, historical fiction, and realistic fiction, and the descriptions of both eras of Florence are vivid enough to appeal to the armchair traveler as well.
Picture Book: Olivia Goes to Venice by Ian Falconer
With her characteristic style, little girl pig Olivia takes Venice by storm. She enjoys Venice as only a kid can: with LOTS of gelato, a gondola ride, the joy and fear of feeding the pigeons, and an endless search for the perfect souvenir. This last ends in a “smashing” success that has elicited squeals of glee from my test audience with every single read.
Picture Book: Madeline and the Gypsies by Ludwig Bemelmens
I almost hesitate to include this, because it is emphatically NOT a politically correct portrayal of the Roma…but the pictures of the French countryside are just beautiful, and I am impressed at how Bemelmens works all these landscapes in while still telling a fun, funny, kid-friendly story. Fans of the other Madeline books will enjoy it, and adults will appreciate the index of all the French locations at the back of the book.
Picture Book: Possum Magic by Mem Fox
Grandma Poss uses her magic to make her grand-possum Hush invisible, but when the two possums want to see Hush again, they run into trouble. They have to travel around Australia eating magic foods in order to make Hush visible again. Although they don’t travel abroad, for those of us who haven’t been to Australia their trips make a delightful visit to a faraway land.
YA Pick: An Abundance of Katherines by John Green (2007 Printz Award Honor Book)
After being dumped by his 19th girlfriend named Katherine and lamenting that he’s missed the boat on being a genius, Colin Singleton decides to get out of his hometown, Chicago, with his best friend, Hassan. They make it as far as Gutshot, Tennessee, where they are roped into a summer job of interviewing townspeople for a local history project by the owner of Gutshot’s largest business. Colin participates in the interviewing only reluctantly, spending his spare time on an equation to predict the course of romantic relationships. As the summer goes on, though, Colin and Hassan find out why listening to other peoples stories is so important, and their new coworker, Lindsey, may even help Colin get over his Katherine problems.
YA Pick: Going Bovine by Libba Bray (2010 Printz Award Winner, 2010 Best Books for Young Adults)
In this mother-of-all-road-trip stories, which Publishers Weekly called “inspired lunacy,” Cameron Smith sets out on a quest to find a mysterious doctor that can cure his Creutzfeldt-Jakob (aka Mad Cow) disease, taking along with him a teenage dwarf and a Norse god trapped inside a yard gnome. Inspired by, and referring to, Don Quixote, Going Bovine takes readers on a crazy journey filled with both hilarious and thought-provoking moments.
Picture Book: Let’s Go for a Drive! by Mo Willems
This is possibly my favorite of Willems’ amazing Elephant and Piggie series, and that is saying something. In this installment, careful, serious Gerald has the fun idea of going for a drive. His best friend Piggie joyfully joins in with the preparations–until Gerald’s carefully laid plan hits an unexpected bump.
-Libby Gorman, currently reading The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats
As a reader, I’m not sure if I went to the movies because I wanted to watch The Giver or because I wanted to hatewatch it.
I did a little of each. I’ll try to explain my reaction to the film, while also leaving out enough information to keep the movie surprising if you’d like to be surprised. That may leave this post incomprehensible until after you’ve seen the movie. I’m not sure. You’ll have to let me know. But be forewarned: this post either has spoilers or is impossible to understand.
I think your liking of this film will depend on how passionate you are about the book. I’m not someone who thinks movies have to stick to the book word-for-word; different media require different approaches. But I’m also not someone who likes it when a movie slaps a book title on its poster and does nothing else to base it on the novel. The Giver is somewhere in between, and it’s not really a bad movie so much as a film that suffers from the glut of dystopian movies, TV, and books and designed itself to be attractive to people just catching on to that genre, not people curious to see Lois Lowry’s beloved book come to life.
That’s not to say that readers won’t enjoy this film. The creators did a brilliant job of dealing with the colorless world. The slow transitions and back-and-forth from plain to color and back again, as Jonas learns new colors and as he goes back and forth between the colorful world of the Giver’s home to his own bland dwelling, is just perfect. The set design is spot-on, and the costumes and props are stylized but not too corny. This film has excellent trappings, but it didn’t do much to translate the power of the book to the screen.
The problem with The Giver, of course, is that there’s a lot you just can’t bring to life from the book. It’s not practical. It’s hard to find a bunch of 12-year-old actors who can carry the gravity present in the original novel, so I can understand the choice that was made when the filmmakers upped the age to 18. People don’t really like murdering children in any context, but it’s especially hard to stomach when you have to watch it, not just read about it. And I can understand, for financial reasons, why this movie was framed in its trailers, promotional posters, and even in the film itself, as another Divergent, though I think it does the movie and the book a disservice. Nearly every misstep this film makes is that it turned itself from a powerful children’s novel (not without its faults, especially if you reread it as an adult, but still an exceptionally well done book) that forces us all to confront our notions of childhood and humanity and protection into yet another movie about a teenager taking on the system and winning.
If you’d like a teen dystopia, this is a very good movie. There are still some important questions it asks, but in that insulting way that other dystopian stories for teens ask the questions and immediately push you toward an answer, this film assumes you need a lot of help coming to the right conclusion. Where the book is thoughtful and lets you mull over things by watching the result of Sameness and overzealous order, like Asher being beaten by teachers for misspeaking, or less healthy twins being euthanized for having the wrong kind of similarity, or puberty being instantly stopped at its first stirring (see what I did there) without discussion, or not even having the words to describe color, the film lets you see it and then instantly tells you, via the Giver himself or Jonas’ voiceover narration (an unfortunate addition that more firmly insinuates that the source material is a teen melodrama) or his worldly, deep phrasing when he tries to convince Fiona that she’s being duped. The way characters instantly come to terms with huge information that took Jonas a lot of training to understand, just because it’s convenient to the film if they can understand it right now, is obnoxious, if unsurprising. It’s like the movie relies on your knowing the book to fill in the blanks, while simultaneously wanting you to believe that this is a completely original story. And the entire quality of the film changes when it’s a teenager being given responsibility and having it taken away at the same time – that’s what adolescence is. That’s what we are used to thinking stories about teenagers are about. What is so chilling about the novel is that it’s children who are being put into these positions.
Then, of course, there’s the matter of the ending. This issue goes beyond the book and the movie, since you and I may be in very different camps as to how we feel about it. The film, because it takes what was an implied post-apocalyptic setup and makes it So Very Important (and yet so vague and uninteresting) that it needs to be printed at the beginning of the film, stated by Jonas as soon as the words are wiped from the screen, then spoken again by the Chief Elder at the ceremony, and then referenced again by the Giver, necessarily has a more hopeful and in-your-face, action-packed ending.
I understand that Lois Lowry herself is pleased with the movie and the changes that were made. Given her almost complete recanting of the traditional reading of the novel’s end, I’m not surprised. But I don’t agree with it. The curmudgeon in me thinks each of The Giver‘s subsequent sequels was a bigger and bigger mistake, and the student of literary theory in me is firm in her belief that authors have no business modifying and correcting the readings of their books once they’re out in the world. (The author is dead, after all.) It’s not that I take pleasure in bleak, depressing book endings (though I do think The Giver did it right, making it bleak and only slightly ambiguous), it’s just that I think instantly fixing the world is disingenuous, not to mention less interesting than prompting questions like “Was it worth it?” or “What is sacrifice?” or “Whom does Jonas’ journey benefit?” as the novel did.
If you want to get the same emotional hit you likely got from the book, you will not get it here. But if you want to see a movie that’s not bad, this is as good a choice as any.
What did you think?
–Hannah Gómez, currently reading Science…For Her! by Megan Amram
Good morning, Hub readers!
Last week, we asked you to choose the best book to cool off with during the summer heat. In the lead was The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, with 67% of the vote, followed by The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean, with 19%. 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 all excited that the highly-anticipated film adaptation of Lois Lowry’s YA classic, The Giver, is now playing in theaters everywhere! Have you seen it? Did you love it? In light of this beloved book being brought to moviegoing audiences, our question for you this week is: what other YA classic would you like to see on the big screen? 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.
Happy Friday, Hub Readers! Check out these tweets of the week with Lauren Oliver, Red Sonja & of course, Batman! In case you missed it…I’m here to compile it all for you!
Books & Reading
- @oliverbooks is continuing her Twitter #ghostlygoodreads story: They drank chai and pumpkin lattes. The conversation was easy, even when they moved away from books on to other topics. #ghostlygoodreads tinyurl.com/op78zz6
- @harperteen: 12 quotes that describe your relationship with your BFF perfectly: http://bit.ly/1p7Pwfj
- @galleycat: Remembering Lauren Bacall Through Her Writing http://mbist.ro/1lUNgn4
- @harpercollins: “Mean it. Whatever you have to say, mean it.”—Neil Gaiman on speaking in public. Share your favorite @neilhimself quotes using #GaimanSays.
- @novaren: A BLIND SPOT FOR BOYS is out this week & I have @JustinaYChen sharing a touching story on Books of Her Heart: http://wp.me/pM1Z-51l
- @TheMarySue: ICYMI, #GameofThrones’ Sophie Turner (Sansa, my Queen) is going to be Mary Shelley in an upcoming movie. http://www.themarysue.com/sophie-turner-mary-shelleys-monster/
- @Robot6: Reflecting on Robin Williams and the weird, underrated ‘Popeye’ http://on.cbr.cc/1sVr9mu (my very favorite Robin Williams movie)
- @screencrushnews: ICYMI, WB is developing an ‘Aquaman’ movie >> http://screencrush.com/aquaman-solo-movie/ …
- @DoctorWho_BBCA: RT @anglophenia Tours, trailers and travelling TARDISes, it must be #DoctorWho’s Day: http://bbc.in/1mFQX00
- @NerdistDotCom: From IRON MAN to THOR: THE DARK WORLD, here is every easter egg in the @Marvel universe. You’re welcome. http://nerdist.com/?p=171530
- @CBR: #SDCC: Fans, Friends and Family Remember Bill Finger http://on.cbr.cc/1vI3ucJ
- @gailsimone: Very proud of Red Sonja #11, out today! In stores: http://tinyurl.com/q5y9v64 and at Comixology: http://tinyurl.com/q22gcgw
- @Marvel: RT @TSpence92 Ms Marvel is absolutely terrific. It’s easily the first book I want to read each month. Love it @GWillowWilson @Marvel #comics #Marvel
- @comicsalliance: IDW’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Comics Are The TMNT Comics You’ve Wanted Since 1989 http://bit.ly/1sVpblZ
- @DCComics: This is us sitting back and waiting for Tumblr to break under the weight of all the BATGIRL #34 posts.
- @geoffreyfowler: What beats Amazon, Oyster and Scribd for all-you-can-read ebooks? Your local public library: http://on.wsj.com/ViYF8J
- @innovates_ed: The Public Library as a Community Hub for #connectedlearning | via @ifla http://ow.ly/Ag6C3
- @parisreview: “Is she cheerful? Has she a knowledge of books? Are her vibrations pleasant?” A vintage guide to becoming a librarian http://tpr.ly/1sViAav
– Traci Glass, currently reading My Last Kiss by Bethany Neal
The loss of actor Robin Williams this week has been both shocking and sad for so many of us. He was always so full of life in his interviews and stand-up
performances. You always felt like you were watching someone special. He is probably best known for his television and movie performances. Today’s teens might not remember him in Mork and Mindy, but I encourage them and you to Youtube those old episodes. It’s a show from a long-ago TV era, but one that has special place in my heart alongside I Love Lucy from the Nick at Night of yesteryear. His comedic talents and sheer charisma in the show are timeless, so is his impressive work in film.
Two of his many films he made were selected for YALSA’s Fabulous Films for Young Adults – Dead Poet’s Society and Good Will Hunting, both 2010 selections. Williams was an artist who connected with many people and across many generations. Look to the sheer volume and diversity of people responding to his death on social media, in the news and on television. Just look at what’s been happening at the bench in Boston where they filmed Good Will Hunting. The cynics among us may believe this is just another example of a society obsessed with celebrity, but I believe it’s more than that. I believe he was one of the rare artists who touched our hearts and souls with the joy and love he infused in his work.
He was a teacher that showed his students that words and ideas could change the world and asked his students to find their voice before it was too late. He was a straight shooting psychologist that helped a lost genius reconcile his anger and grief and asked him to make a move because someone can’t do everything for you. He was a wish granting genie and a best friend to a street rat. He was Peter Pan, a crossdressing father trying to see his kids, a night club owning gay dad pretending to be straight for the parents of his son’s fiancé, and a US president who comes to life afterhours in a museum. Robin Williams was all of these people to us because he brought them to life with his talent. He had the ability to make us believe in him and laugh with him. Just watch this moving tribute from super fan Jimmy Fallon:
I understand this outpouring of sadness from my friends and the world, because I know that the world lost a little bit its light on August 11th. Losing someone who projected such a gregarious personality especially to something like suicide is jarring. There are lots of myths out there about depression and suicide. Just know that depression is a serious illness that a lot of us don’t understand, which makes losses like these hard for us to reconcile. Educate yourself.
In honor of Robin Williams, we wanted to create a booklist in his honor respecting the family’s wish for all of us to remember “the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions.” With that in mind, here is a list of books that have made readers laugh out loud.
- Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick
- The Twinkie Squad and No More Dead Dogs by Gordon Korman
- I Funny series by James Patterson
- Lemony Snicket’s books
- Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan
- The Absolute True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
- The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
- The Watsons Go to Birmingham and Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
- The Ascendance Trilogy by Jennifer A. Nielsen (noted for its sardonic wit)
- Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead (The first couple of books are the lighter ones but all of them carry the same zingy wit throughout.)
All right, readers, your turn- what was the last book that made you laugh out loud?
I’d like to leave you with one of my favorite Robin Williams scene from the 2010 selected YALSA’s Films for Young Adults, Dead Poet’s Society. If you are interested in readalikes for Dead Poet’s Society , check out Libby Gorman’s post back in February of this year.
O Captain! My Captain! I hope you have found peace.
-Katie Shanahan Yu, currently reading If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Lately, I’ve had to weed my Young Adult Graphic Novel collection because I am just running out of room. Weeding is always a sad process, be it in a public library or in your personal collection – I just always think, well, if I just give them another month or another week, someone will pick up this book! I always like to think that there’s a book here for every person, and unfortunately, some books just don’t get a lot of love or get matched up with their perfect person during their time in the collection.
That got me thinking about this post; I wanted to spotlight older titles, but how would I choose them since there are so many great books out there from years past? Then, aha! I had an epiphany – what if I highlighted some of my favorite comics & graphic novels from YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens lists?
So, I went back through all the GGNT lists, and picked out some of my favorites from the 2007-2011 lists. Now, some of these books are pretty popular and some are not, but they are all great graphic reads for all different kinds of readers. From Star Wars to cat burglars to Batman (well, Batwoman, but, close enough), everyone will find something fun to read on this list – and these are old books! Well, oldish – and older books can be some of the best books. So, join me, readers, on this walk down memory lane as we revisit some favorites and hopefully, put the spotlight on some forgotten or overlooked treasures.
Star Wars: Tag & Bink Were Here by Kevin Rubio & Lucas Marangon: From the inaugural GGNT list, I chose one of very favorite comics ever! Tag & Bink are two bumbling rebels who, when they come face to face with Stormtroopers, decide to knock them out and steal their uniforms, and thus, their times as members of the Imperial Army begin. They aren’t the most savvy or smartest of the bunch, so in addition to not being found out by Darth Vader and his minions, they are also trying to stay alive and get back to the other members of the rebellion. What’s funny about this book is that Tag & Bink are involved in every major event that happens in the movies – and they’re usually on the verge of messing something up or getting themselves found out. This book is great for Star Wars aficionados as well as newbies – because it introduces something new and hilarious to established movies with no prior knowledge needed. All of your favorite characters from Episodes IV-VI make appearances here, and this book will definitely keep you laughing until the very last page!
The War at Ellsmere by Faith Erin Hicks: Yay for Faith Erin Hicks! She just won an Eisner Award (the Academy Awards of Comics – given out at Comic-Con each year) for her awesome comic The Adventures of Superhero Girl. That got me thinking about her work in general, and how much I really love all of her books. Going through the 2009 GGNFT list, I noticed that one of her earlier titles, The War at Ellsmere had made the list! Juniper is a new student at Ellsmere Academy – a boarding school that has accepted her as a scholarship student. Unfortunately, as a scholarship student, she is the odd-girl out around all the affluent students who inhabit the school. Lucky for her, she has an awesome roommate in Cassie, who also gets teased by the upper-class students. Plus! There might be a mythical, beautiful beast that lives in the forest behind the school! Part realistic fiction, part fantasy, this book is awesome – and, of course, it is – it is written & illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks, after all!
Skim by Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki: So, I love it when Mariko & Jillian work together – they are cousins, and they put out the most beautiful and thoughtful graphic novels that really exhibit the teenage experience. They have a new book out, This One Summer, that is getting a lot of buzz, but I wanted to focus on their earlier title, Skim, the story of Kimberly Keiko Cameron who is dealing with a lot of heavy issues. Topics like suicide, depression, love, wondering whether or not you’re gay, high school, and loneliness are handled with the upmost respect and tenderness. Struggling with who you are is something that is a universal teen experience, and the Tamaki cousins bring teen characters to readers who are realistic and dealing with the same kind of problems. A melancholy and quiet look at trying to make it day to day when you feel like everything is spinning out of control.
Cat Burglar Black by Richard Sala: I remember reading Cat Burglar Black when it was first announced as part of the 2010 list, and I absolutely loved it. K. Westree is a cat burglar; she lost both of her parents when she was a child, and was raised in an orphanage by Mother Claude who turned the orphanage into a breeding ground for thieving children. The orphanage gang was eventually broken up (with weird & tragic results), and K. was invited to Bellsong Academy, a boarding school, which put off an air of mystery. The weird headmistress, students – really everyone there at Bellsong seems to be hiding something, and K. is determined to figure out the mystery of the Academy. A great and fun mysterious romp that readers will be sad to see end. It also ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, but it doesn’t seem like any other books about K. have been written – too bad. Readers will fall in love with K., her sleuthing skills, and that white hair of hers.
Batwoman: Elegy by Greg Rucka & J.H. Williams III: This book really kicked off the rebirth of Batwoman, aka Kate Kane, in the DC Universe – it’s written by Greg Rucka – one of my favorite crime & mystery graphic novel writers and illustrated by J.H. Williams III, who basically draws the most beautiful art ever. Seriously. There is a new foe in town – Alice, who is obsessed with Alice in Wonderland, and she has horrible plans in store for Gotham City. But, Batwoman is on the case and ready to defend her city at all costs. A great story that sometimes is forgotten to be included with the current Batwoman run that was rebooted after this title was released. A great superhero story with a kick-butt lady with some pretty awesome red hair.
Yay! I’m so happy to share some of my favorite oldies, but still goodies with you! These are all taken from past Great Graphic Novels for Teens lists which are chock full of great ideas for comic book reading if you just can’t decide what to try next. I hope you’ll give these “geezers” a chance; I know they won’t disappoint!
And, remember to join me next month, same bat time, same bat channel for some more graphic reads recommendations!
–Traci Glass, currently reading My Last Kiss by Bethany Neal
Leilani lives in Hilo, on the Big Island of Hawaii. Although her mother is Native Hawaiian, her father is white, and the family had been living in California for most of Leilani’s childhood. She’s not accepted at her public high school, partly because of her race, and partly because of the epileptic seizure that felled Leilani in the school cafeteria. It’s because of her epilepsy that Leilani and her father are flying from the Big Island to Honolulu, on the island of Oahu. As they prepare to travel, her father reenacts a family joke by singing John Denver’s Leavin’ on a Jet Plane. Fathers can be so hokey sometimes.
But while Leilani and her father are in Honolulu, the world goes berzerk. A strange green haze appears in the sky. Communication networks collapse. There are reports of nuclear power plants exploding across the globe. Soon enough, Leilani and her dad are ensconced in a makeshift camp run by the military, and the trip back to Hilo becomes a matter of life and death.
John Denver wrote Leavin’ on a Jet Plane in 1966, originally calling it Babe, I Hate to Go. Although Denver did make his own recording of the song, it was more famously recorded by the folk group Peter, Paul & Mary. Their single was released in 1969, in the midst of Vietnam war protests. It’s wistful message of regret and tenderness touched many soldiers longing to reunite with loved ones.
Here are Peter, Paul & Mary with John Denver in 1969.
Diane Colson, currently reading The Hit by Melvin Burgess.
Making stuff isn’t something that is usually associated with libraries, but it should be. The maker movement is still going strong, and it’s showing everyone that teens use libraries for all sorts of learning- including how to make all sorts of things. YALSA’s 2014 Maker Contest is going on right now, and applicants have the chance to win some neat prizes as well as share their awesome ideas with others. The deadline to apply is September 1st and you can go here to learn more and to apply. (Get some ideas on how to create a maker/ DIY program here.)
Finding themes in YA fiction that go along with the maker movement wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be until I thought bigger and stopped limiting myself to duct tape. When I did that I found a bunch that I thought might spark some interest in doing with teens. I also found some nonfiction titles, too, to get us all started on the doing!
Pizza, Love, and Other Stuff That Made Me Famous by Kathryn Williams follows sixteen-year-old Sophie from the kitchen in her family’s restaurant in Washington, D.C., to the set of “Teen Test Kitchen,” a new reality show about teens cooking that her best friend has convinced her to audition for. Is Sophie ready to compete with her cooking, though? Hopefully growing up in the family restaurant will have been enough training!
Although Pizza, Love, and Other Stuff That Made Me Famous includes recipes, there are lots of teen oriented cookbooks out there. A Teen Guide to… cookbook series by Dana Meachen Rau covers everything from Breakfast on the Go to Quick Healthy Snacks, and includes safety tips, conversion charts, and tons of tips throughout. Even I can cook using these, and I once tried to microwave a frozen noodle dinner for seventeen minutes instead of seven!
The Boyfriend App by Katie Sise could be of equal interest to teens interested in computer programming and teens interested in romance. Audrey is trying to win $200,000 offered by global computing corporation Public in order to get herself into college and away from home. To do this she writes a matchmaking app, which pairs unlikely couples and is sort of becoming a hit. But Audrey digs deeper and learns that her matchmaking results might be skewed, and Public is at the heart of things. Discovering the truth will lead to more than she bargained for… including love?
Programming apps is not only something that a lot of teens are interested in, but it’s also something that can make them good money. There are tons of YouTube videos and even some apps that teach how to make apps. Computer programming in general is something that a lot of teens are into, though for many of us it seems too daunting to take on. Programming Like a Pro for Teens by Charles R. Hardnett is an introduction to programming with C++ that actually has exercises in it to practice and doesn’t use heavy computer jargon, which makes it easier for teens (and adults!) to understand than most programming books!
So Punk Rock (and Other Ways to Disappoint Your Mother) by Micol Ostow deals, unsurprisingly, with music. Ari, Jonas, Yossi and Reena, four students at the Leo R. Gittleman Jewish Day School in New Jersey form a rock band. The band becomes insanely- and surprisingly-popular, though, which creates a roller coaster of emotions for its members.
Music is something that has always been an outlet for teens, and there are plenty of books on the subject. From books about the music makers to books of sheet music, there’s plenty for teens to tune in to. For those who want to try their hand at creating music, Lisa Donovan Lukas’ The Young Musician’s Guide to Songwriting: How to Create Music & Lyrics can help you figure out how to structure a song, figure out harmonies and melodies, and how to develop a good song idea in the first place.
Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld isn’t specifically about teens making stuff, but there is some serious tinkering with both the biological and mechanical going on in this alternate history, Darwin-meets-steampunk adventure. Deryn, a British girl-disguised-as-a-boy, and Alek, the fifteen year old Prince of Austria, are up against each other and their enemies in this first of a trilogy that has
flying whales and steam powered mechs roaming the European countryside in 1914.
Cinder by Marissa Meyer isn’t the traditional Cinderella story, and it’s also a Teens’ Top Ten winner (2012). There are no singing mice here! Earth is overcrowded and ravaged by plague. The ruthless lunar people are just waiting to make their move on it. Cinder is a cyborg and a gifted mechanic, and when Prince Kai comes into her shop to get his android fixed, everything changes for her. In order to protect the world she must work with- and yes, maybe fall for- Prince Kai and uncover secrets about her past in this first of the Lunar Chronicles.
Project 17 by Laurie Faria Stolarz finds a diverse group of six high school students sneaking into an abandoned mental institution near Boston to make a film – one that aspiring film maker Derik LaPointe hopes will save him from a future of flipping burgers in his parents’ restaraunt for the rest of his life. Of course, none of them expect the inexplicably terrifying events that keep occurring, even though they probably should have, considering the building is about to be demolished and is rumored by the locals to be haunted! Their lives definitely change that night.
Some teens just want to be in front of the camera, others are interested in the behind the scenes aspects of movie making, such as editing and special effects. There are loads of books out there about making movies, but I’ve found that some of the best aren’t guides as much as memoirs, like Sean Astin’s There and Back Again: an Actor’s Tale, which combines the on-screen and the off-screen to give you an all-around picture of what it was like to make the Lord of the Rings films and how he grew as a person throughout the experience. Likewise, Doctor Who: The Inside Story by Gary Russell chronicles everything that went into producing an episode of the popular TV series- from casting and filming to designing costumes, sets, and creatures- through the end of series two. Beware with this one though- there are spoilers if you haven’t seen the show!
Have you got other titles that would be great to build a maker space program on? List them in the comments!
-Carla Land, currently re-reading The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, which is better than she remembered it being in high school.
This post is a reader’s response to a book read for the 2014 Hub Reading Challenge.
Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick is a glorious enigma of a book, and a puzzle that I hope no reader will ever fully solve. Therefore, I won’t seek to explain it or expand much on the plot. Instead, I want to talk about where this book took me. It seems appropriate that while reading a book that was set in multiple times and places, I was taken back to multiples times and places in my own reading life. Midwinterblood magically transported me back to two times that I might call golden ages in my reading history.
I will call the first (forgive the melodrama) the Age of Surrender. This time period of my reading life spanned from ages 12-16. I did most of my reading at that time during summer vacations. I had very few responsibilities and distractions, and, so was more able to surrender my time and attention fully to whatever book I was reading. I think I was also able to surrender my judgement to the world of the book and only the world of the book.
These days, as a teen librarian, I read editorial reviews, blogs, and follow my fellow librarians on Goodreads. It is almost impossible to read any YA book without hearing the interrupting voices of critics. I miss that Age of Surrender when I had no baggage to check at the first page. Midwinterblood took me back to this place for two reasons. First, unlike prior Printz Award winners, I hadn’t heard much about it. (Though this may have been because I was in my final months of library school when it came out). Second, the world of the book was so intriguing, beautiful, strange and unprecedented that my own critical voice, which usually stands outside the story and makes disruptive comments, was silenced. I felt like I was back to those summers of reading without distraction, and before it became almost impossible not to approach books as a critic. I felt like I was reading like a teen again, which is one of the best gifts a YA novel can give an adult reader.
I will call the second golden age of my reading history the Age of Analysis. This age spanned from ages 18-21 and coincided directly with being an undergraduate English major. Almost all the books I read during this age were later dissected and analyzed and mined for symbolism, and all interpretations, as long as they were properly supported by the text, were valid. There was no right answer, and we were never really going to figure out exactly what the author was telling us, but that was the most thrilling part of studying literature. Readers of Midwinterblood will find countless symbols, motifs and ideas to pursue if they want to capture the heart of the story. The fun of it is– they are never really going to capture it.
Midwinterblood was by far my favorite book of YALSA’s 2014 Hub Reading Challenge, not only because the world of the book took me multiple places at once, but also because the reading experience took me back to multiple reading eras in my own reading life.
Summer is the perfect time for reading for fun and making s’mores. In fact, yesterday was National S’mores Day.
So I decided to combine these two concepts and give you three books on the same topic – think of them as the graham cracker, the marshmallow, and the chocolate of a s’more- all deliciously good.
Middle Grade Fantasy:
What three books would you pair together?
~ Jennifer Rummel, currently reading The Bridge From Me to You by Lisa Schroeder
Good morning, Hub readers!
Last week, we asked which “vintage” YA novel could use a cover makeover to reach a contemporary audience. The big winner was The Cat Ate My Gymsuit by Paula Danziger, with 31% of the vote, followed by Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher, with 26%, and Interstellar Pig by William Sleator took in 17% 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 and commented!
This week, as we’re getting into the middle of August and the long, hot summer is starting to feel… well, really long and really hot, we want to know which of the following books would help cool you down. Vote in the poll below, or leave your suggestion in the comments!Note: There is a poll embedded within this post, please visit the site to participate in this post's poll.
Drama from GISHWHES! New adult nonfiction?! NYPL’s new campaign! Snark and jokes! Read on for some of the best tweets of the past week.
- @LaurenDeStefano Hi all, So here’s the thing. There’s this actor named Misha Collins, who stars in Supernatural. This is not a… http://fb.me/6VwH5iD1Q
- @mstiefvater I mean this in the kindest possible way, but @gishwhes should really come handle my inbox because they have done terrible things to it.
- @cbcbook What questions come to your mind after reading #TheLittlePrince? http://ow.ly/zVKkD @MacKidsBooks @HMHKids #kidlit
- @hapamamagrace I Agree! Why Adults Need Diverse Books Too by @Thienkim http://bher.co/BEBS
- @MitaliPerkins Here’s my take on children’s books and diversity at @ALA_Booklist. It’s a question of power. http://bit.ly/BooklistDiversity
- @disabilityinlit Tumblr: Ten YA novels featuring disabled women of color as protagonists! http://tmblr.co/Z58ufr1NTDJQT
- @catagator The idea of new adult non-fiction is interesting…. http://www.slj.com/2014/08/industry-news/zest-books-enters-new-adult-market-with-pulp-imprint/#_
- @MirandaKennealy Super excited to be writing more books! http://mirandakenneally.com/2014/08/05/new-books/
- @bookriot Big news! Meet our new site, @HeyPanels, a place for anyone who is into comics: http://ow.ly/A0Z6r
- @EllenBooraem RIP #LAMeyer, author of #JackieFaber novels. Forget romantic folk songs–this 18thC girl dressed as boy to survive. http://publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-authors/article/63568-obituary-l-a-meyer.html
- @BuzzFeedBooks How @rainbowrowell Turned A Bomb Into A Best-Selling Novel: http://www.buzzfeed.com/ashleyford/how-rainbow-rowell-turned-a-bomb-into-a-best-selling-novel …
- @annehelen Here’s my piece on Outlander as the feminist answer to Game of Thrones — and why dudes should be watching: http://www.buzzfeed.com/annehelenpetersen/watch-outlander
- @sdiaz101 Lois Lowry on Giving Up ‘The Giver’ to Hollywood http://nyti.ms/1m5ELFt
- @4everYA Mark your calendars for July 31, 2015, because PAPER TOWNS! http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/john-greens-paper-towns-film-722906
- @cbcbook Want to go down the rabbit hole? #Disney is shooting a Through the Looking Glass film! http://ow.ly/zXgPH @HarperChildrens
- @haleshannon If I see one more kid movie where the only girls are the mother and the love interest…DON’T MAKE ME COME OUT THERE, HOLLYWOOD!
- @GDIGM ‘#Frozen’ Director Jennifer Lee to Adapt ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ for Disney http://ow.ly/A1e02 #WomanDirectorWednesday #WomenCallAction
- @wikiaYAbooks Win a Shadow and Bone themed SWAG package. Click here to enter- http://bit.ly/1jqN0d8 (ends Friday) @LBardugo
- @gracedcastellan Win a copy of @bethanycrandell ’s SUMMER ON THE SHORT BUS over here: http://www.bethanycrandell.com #shortbus #giveaway http://rookieriter.blogspot.com/2014/08/a-tour-through-crickets-hood-giveaway.html
- @YAHollywood Enter to Win a DIVERGENT Blu-ray! – Thanks to Lionsgate, YAH is giving away one copy of the Divergent… http://tmblr.co/ZtDfZq1NVZdra
- @Candlewick Make #NoiseforNess! Tweet your fav @Patrick_Ness book and enter to win paperbacks; details at link: http://ow.ly/zW04G
- @scottishbktrust We’ve got 5 copies of Rose Under Fire by the awesome @EWein2412 to give away, courtesy of @EMTeenFiction. Win one: http://bit.ly/eweincomp
- @sljournal It’s a Wild, Wild, Wild, Wild Giveaway — @100scopenotes http://ow.ly/A1bh8 100 Scope Notes
- @JenniferDiaries Enter to win an ARC of STARFIRE, #1 in The Guardian Herd series out 09/23/14 on @Goodreads. #mglit @HarperChildrens https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/102803-starfire …
Librarianship and Youth
- @nypl Tomorrow @nypl is opening an outdoor reading room on the plaza of the 42nd Street Library! #ireadeverywhere https://twitter.com/nypl/status/496320670880763906
- @reachhigher Did you see @FLOTUS‘s letter to young women in @seventeenmag? Take your education seriously. #ReachHigher http://goo.gl/9NcFRe
- @lbraun2000 RT @HuffPostTeen: Teen problems you still have when you’re an adult (via @teen) http://bit.ly/1mUYEi6
- @cmch_boston According to new research, there are at least two types of ‘digital stressors’ facing today’s #teens : http://bit.ly/1kkN311 @hgse
Just For Fun
- @thoughtcatalog 21 Of The Most Hilarious Tweets Of All Time http://tcat.tc/1pW4vWe
- @justinelavaworm If I was ruler of the world I’d get rid of cars. It’d be a world of public transport–trains, airships, ferries, bicycles, teleportation.
- @readingrainbow Do you have enough down-time in your life? The benefits of being bored: http://usat.ly/1ASbk3D via @USAtoday.
- @catagator For jury duty, do I bring my biggest, scariest looking horror novel or do I bring something that looks exceptionally feminine?
- @ASAPScience What do you get when you cross a joke with a rhetorical question?
–Hannah Gómez, currently reading Salvage by Alexandra Duncan
Android users can download the app for free through the Google Play store. The app allows users to access YALSA’s recommended reading and award winning titles from the past years with just a touch of a button from their mobile device. An iOS version is currently also available through the Apple App Store.
The Teen Book Finder app’s features include:
- The ability to search for books by author, title, award or list year, genre, by award, and by booklist
- A Find It! button, powered by the OCLC WorldCat Search API, that shows users where to find the book in a nearby library and a book’s available format, including audiobook and e-book.
- Three Hot Picks, featuring different titles from the database, refreshed each day
- A Favorites button, to create an individualized reading list
- The ability to share books from the Teen Book Finder on Twitter and Facebook
Funding for the android and iOS version of the Teen Book Finder app is possible through generous sponsorship from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation.
(Did you miss part I? Click here!)
Here are some more upcoming fall TV shows, plus YA and YA-friendly adult books that make for great companion pieces.
Jane the Virgin (The CW) – Starring Gina Rodriguez
A strange turn of events leads to Type-A, virginal Jane being artificially inseminated without her knowledge. Based on a telenovela, this soapy dramedy has the potential to spark conversations about cultural clashes, reproductive rights, and feminism. Watch the trailer here.
- Purity by Jackson Pearce (2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults)
- The Pregnancy Project by Gaby Rodriguez (2013 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers)
- Doing It by Melvin Burgess (2005 Best Books for Young Adults, 2008 Popular Paperbacks)
- Not That Kind of Girl by Siobhan Vivian (2011 Best Fiction for Young Adults)
- This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen (2003 Best Books for Young Adults)
One Big Happy (NBC) – Starring Elisha Cuthbert and Nick Zano
This show is clearly banking on the success of shows like Modern Family (and executive producer Ellen DeGeneres) to get viewers. Lizzy, who is a lesbian, and her best friend Luke decided to have a baby as friends, but things become complicated when Luke gets married.
- Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
- Two Parties, One Tux, and a Very Short Film About the Grapes of Wrath by Steven Goldman
- My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger
- The Difference Between You and Me by Madeleine George
Red Band Society (Fox) – Starring Dave Annable and Octavia Spencer
Based on a Spanish TV series, this show will follow a group of teens living together in the pediatric ward of a hospital. Expect everyone you know to tune into the pilot. Watch the trailer here.
- Some book by some guy named John Green (2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults)
- It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini (2007 Best Books for Young Adults)
- A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby
- Get Well Soon by Julie Halpern (2008 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers)
- Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty (2002 Best Books for Young Adults)
Selfie (ABC) – Starring Karen Gillan and John Cho
Pygmalion meets Instagram in this sitcom is about a self-obsessed young woman who must lower herself down to earth with the help of the more tightly laced older man at work. Watch the trailer here.
- Pants on Fire by Meg Cabot
- Awkward by Marni Bates
- ttyl by Lauren Myracle (2005 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers)
- Dare Me by Eric Devine
- Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (NBC) – Starring Ellie Kemper
Created by Tina Fey and starring The Office and Bridesmaids alum Ellie Kemper, this sitcom is one you can expect will get a lot of buzz. Kimmy spent 15 years in a cult and is now trying to live in the real world, to hilarious consequence.
- Forbidden by Judy Waite
- Bumped by Megan McCafferty
- Beauty Queens by Libba Bray (2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults)
- Bubble World by Carol Snow
- Family by Micol Ostow
Weird Loners (Fox) – Starring Zachary Knighton, Becki Newton, Nate Torrence, and Meera Rohit Kumbhani
This decade’s Friends reduces the number of strangers to four, puts them in an apartment building together and forces them to confront their approaches to relationships – which none of them wants to do. While it may be about 30-somethings, teens should respond well to the idea of disparate personalities struggling to connect and understand each other and themselves.
- Sweet Treats and Secret Crushes by Lisa Greenwald
- Death, Dickinson and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia by Jenny Torres Sanchez
- Let’s Get Lost by Adi Alsaid
- The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares (2002 Best Books for Young Adults, 2009 Popular Paperbacks)
- Dreams of Significant Girls by Cristina Garcia
–Hannah Gómez, currently reading Dirty Wings by Sarah McCarry
Check out previous interviews in the One Thing Leads to Another series here.
I credit the 2014 Hub Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge for the motivation to move debut author Stephanie Kuehn’s Charm & Strange to the top of my reading pile, and I’m so glad I did–what an astounding book! I was thrilled when it was named the winner of the 2014 William C. Morris Award. Of course credit for the presence of Complicit on the top of the reading pile as soon as it came out last month goes to Stephanie herself and I expect it will happen again with next year’s Delicate Monsters. If you haven’t had the pleasure (is “pleasure” the right word here? “mind-bending experience” might be more accurate) of reading her work you’ll want to rectify that immediately, at which point I won’t need to remind you to watch out for her next book because you’ll do that on your own. But if you haven’t had a chance to read some of the wise and thoughtful things she has to say about teens and mental health, go do that too; the world of young adult literature is seriously lucky to have her.
Thank you so much, Stephanie, for taking the time to talk with me, for your honesty and for your thoughtful explanations–I could have asked a dozen more questions based on your fascinating answers! And I think The Smiths are kind of boring too.Always Something There to Remind Me
Please describe your teenage self.
When I think back on who I was as a teen, I see a lot of contradictions. I was quiet and awkward. I was loud and gregarious. I was athletic. I was internal. I was lonely. I was social. I was passionate. I was morbidly apathetic. Maybe the only constant is that I’m still the same way. Consistently inconsistent.
What did you want to be when you grew up? Why?
I wanted to somehow be involved in filmmaking. I’m pretty sure I saw nearly every single horror film that came out on video in the eighties, despite the fact my parents didn’t even own a VCR. On weekends, I would walk to the video store, rent a VCR, along with as many movies from the horror section as they would let me, and then stumble home with my arms full and set everything up. Part of me wanted to direct films or write them, but I was also really interested in special effects.
As for why…well, I’ve always felt a pull to do something creative, and films were an art form that I really connected with at that time of my life. Horror isn’t at all my thing anymore (too scary!), but the films I watched then were stories that explored emotions I wanted to explore: fear and doubt and distrust and disbelief and paradigm shifts about identity and who we are and what the world around us is all about.
What were your high school years like?
My high school years were as eclectic as I was: an anxious mix of thrills and boredom and risk-taking and laughter and compulsive, deep self-loathing. My first two years of high school I spent at Berkeley High in Berkeley, California, which is where I grew up. Ninth grade was fine, and I was part of a big social group of brainy kids I’d known in middle school. Tenth grade, however, was sort of a mess for me, for reasons I don’t totally understand. I became very fatalistic and depressed and obsessive about things that weren’t healthy to be obsessed about. To sort of escape my unhappiness, I ended up going to a boarding school in Massachusetts for the last two years of high school, which was a great change for me. I got to reinvent myself and take filmmaking classes, and I feel fortunate to have had that opportunity.
What were some of your passions during that time?
Books and movies, for sure. Back then, I loved horror novels as much as horror films, and I would buy tons of used mass market paperbacks for a quarter each and just devour them all. I read a ton of random books that way, things like The Fury, Pin, Magic, Willard, The Entity, Summer of Night, Neverland, The House Next Door, plus lots of Peter Straub and Robert R. McCammon and V.C. Andrews. I saw all the film versions of these books, too, although I also enjoyed teen films like The Breakfast Club and The Legend of Billie Jean. For sports, I ran cross country and played volleyball, although I wasn’t great at either. I’m a competitive person, but I hadn’t quite tapped into that side of myself yet. I also rode horses when I was younger, which I loved. I’ve always loved animals.
With music, I was all over the place. I grew up in the eighties and liked a lot of popular stuff, but never took my music identity very seriously. At one point, when I was in Berkeley, this new girl moved in next door, and she was super into The Smiths. She was also really cool, so I tried to be into The Smiths, too, only they were boring and I secretly listened to things like Ice-T’s Power when she wasn’t around. I also had an older cousin who lived with us for a while. He was horrified that I liked Duran Duran and tried to reshape my musical tastes by buying me an angel fish named Lou Reed and making me listen to The Velvet Underground.
Would you be willing to share a difficult teen experience or challenge that you feel shaped the adult you became?
A huge part of my self-concept has always been independence, and I think I’m good at portraying a sense of personal strength and confidence. But I’ve always had a hard time showing vulnerability. I don’t know why this is. As a result, during times when I was younger and really struggled with depression and self-harm and obsessive thoughts, I didn’t know how to talk about my thoughts and feelings. At all. So I just kept everything inside of me, and it was maddening. It’s sad to look back and know I suffered for years with problems that I understand much better now, and it’s part of why I’m so committed to working with teens and ending stigma around mental health issues. It’s also why I think books are so important. I had those, and they were important to me.
What about a positive experience or accomplishment that had an impact on your adult self?
I think being proactive and making the decision to leave home when I was fifteen had a huge impact on who I am now. So many doors and possibilities opened up for me mentally, just from having the chance to start high school over and make new connections with new people. I’m not generally an advocate for running away from one’s problems, but for me, the choice to do so was grounded in caring about my future at a time when I’d given up on myself. It was very positive.
What advice, if any, would you give your teen self? Would your teen self have listened?
My advice to myself teen self would be to be patient. I was very impulsive when I was younger. Everything I wanted to achieve felt like it had to happen now. Patience would’ve served me well back then. I would not, however, have ever heeded that advice. Of course not!
Do you have any regrets about your teen years? Anything left undone or anything that might have been better left undone?
No. I mean, there are times I wish I’d been kinder. Or more honest. Or more willing to connect. But those things can’t be changed, and they’ve made me who I am. I do cringe at some of the really risky things I did, like getting into cars with people who were drunk. That is regretful.
What, if anything, do you miss most about that time?
My sheer willingness and drive to just play.Every Day I Write the Book
In both Charm & Strange and Complicit your characters interact with each other in ways that feel genuine, despite the unreliable and sometimes murky reality that your protagonists navigate. Could you talk a little about how you approach creating authentic and compelling relationships between characters? How do you inspire empathy and compassion for characters that readers might not relate to or even understand, characters like Win who aren’t necessarily “likeable” in the traditional sense?
Thank you! Empathy is something I care deeply about, in life and in literature. However, I also believe that while empathy and compassion are most certainly connected, both are just as biased as all other human emotions. This is why qualities such as likeability (along with many others) can play a role in narrative empathy. But liking Win isn’t the point of Charm & Strange, and it wouldn’t have been true to his character to write him differently than the way that I did. Instead, I focused on telling the story in such a way that a reader would feel what Win feels, which is what empathy truly is.
When it comes to the relationships between characters, my approach is to layer on conflict and contradiction and more conflict, because that’s what feels real to me. It’s rare, for me, at least, to feel just one way about a person. I usually feel many ways about people. So in Complicit, Jamie loves his sister Cate and he’s scared of his sister Cate and he wants to protect Cate and he wants Cate to leave him the hell alone. These are all valid truths within him, and I tried to put them all on the page.
Speaking of Win, I want to take this opportunity to talk about resilience. In various interviews you mention resilience as being not only integral to the survival of some of your characters, but also a trait that’s critical to success in real life. Would you describe resilience in this context and talk about how it’s reflected in your writing and why you value the concept of resilience as a mental health professional?
It was important for me to portray Win as someone who, despite his struggles, is seen as strong and resilient, not weak or ‘crazy.’ It goes back to the stigma around mental health, the damaging idea that mental illness is symptomatic of some sort of moral weakness. We shame people for their emotions in our culture, and it is such a hurtful thing. To counter this, I wanted Win to be experienced as someone who was doing his best given the traumatic circumstances of his life. That is what resilience is. Whatever magic Win holds onto is magic he needs. It’s magic we would all need. And needing is okay when you’re hurt. It really is.
“When something is named, we have this very human tendency to want to categorize it as being like something else…This is good in certain ways: naming things gives us a way to share experiences and understand them. However, when something is named, it is also distanced from whatever it is that makes it unique. It becomes less like what it is and gets perceived as more like what it’s like.” You were describing mental health strategies and treatment in this quote, but I’m wondering if your background as a linguist influences your ideas about names and labels as well? Could you talk a bit more about the impact of naming, especially in the context of your characters and their beliefs about themselves?
Definitely! Language, by its nature, is reductive, which is part of what I think I was talking about in that quote—what it means to name something in the context of giving/receiving a mental health diagnosis.
I believe this reductive nature of language is something that is both good and bad: through language we can talk about things and share and understand experiences. But we also lose the individuality of experience, because the human mind is driven to put things into categories, to understand what things are like other things. Categorization, of course, is how we learn from past experience, and this is important, because we reason heuristically far more than we reason logically (even if we aren’t aware of it). But language is also vital on an existential level. As Wittgenstein asserts, having a shared communication system is an integral part of the human experience. Our connectedness to others is how we validate and understand ourselves. There can be no private language. So for Win, who’s been a part of something he can’t put words to, he feels, quite literally, as if his humanity has been diminished.
In Complicit, there is much more naming of things going on than in Charm & Strange. Jamie has lots of names for what’s going on with him and his sister. He has words for the differences between them. Cate is crazy, and he is good. She’s wild. He’s anxious. She’s dangerous. He’s in danger. Our personal narratives and belief systems are all wrapped up in language: it’s how we make meaning of ourselves and others, and like Jamie and Cate, it’s easy to become invested in the truth we believe our stories tell, even when there’s evidence to the contrary.
Finally, and along similar lines, your books have been categorized as “dark psychological thrillers” by a great many reviewers and I’m curious about your reaction to that label, which is accurate and maybe doesn’t tell the whole story. What draws you to that genre in particular, and do you think you could have told Win or Jamie’s stories any other way? Without giving anything away, could you tell us something about your next book, Delicate Monsters? Are you interested in exploring other genres, audiences, or formats in the future?
I would definitely be open to writing for different audiences or in different genres in the future. As for the label, it’s interesting, I never thought of Charm & Strange as a psychological thriller, but it does get called that and maybe that label is accurate. I very much enjoy psychological thrillers, especially in film, and I can see that I used elements from that genre to build the suspense in that book. Personally, I see it more as a story about the aftermath of trauma, but maybe genre is in the structure? I don’t know. Genre is reductive, too.
In Complicit, I definitely wanted to create the atmosphere of a Hitchcock film, so I suppose that label makes more sense. There’s much to admire in Hitchcock’s work, but what I love most is his sense of psychological destiny: his films have this crawling sense of dread throughout, where you know, no matter how good their intentions, or how hard they try, the characters’ fatal flaws are always, always going to catch up with them.
However, there are many ways to craft psychological suspense. Delicate Monsters, which is about a teenage sociopath and her relationships with two boys, who happen to be brothers, follows a very different structure than my first two books, but I think it still fits into the same space: it’s dark. It’s odd. It’s unsettling in its morally ambiguity. It goes where it has to go.Just Can’t Get Enough
Question from E. Lockhart: The internet tells me you are a doctoral candidate in a field related to mental health. In what, specifically? I ask because I have a doctorate (in English, 19th century British novel) and often think about how and whether the work I did long ago affects my current work as a novelist. How do you feel yourself fitting into the institution of academia and how does your scholarly work connect with your fiction?
Thank you for the question, Emily. I am getting my doctorate in clinical psychology, so my focus is less academic and more applied. My studies definitely do influence my writing, although maybe not in as direct a way as one might think. Through my work as a therapist and through being part of a program with a strong social justice emphasis, I’ve learned a great deal about storytelling and systems: the deep power of narrative, how and why certain stories are told and re-told, how meaning is made and who gets to decide. No matter how isolated they are, the characters we create all exist within systems—family, community, etc—and we write and publish our stories within systems, too. These are endlessly interesting realms to navigate.
Stephanie has contributed a question for the next author in the series, Gene Luen Yang. Watch for an interview with him coming soon!
Stephanie Kuehn grew up in Berkeley, California, which is a quirky sort of a place with a ton of wonderful bookstores. Her very first job was working in one of those bookstores, and she’s been a freakishly avid reader for as long as she can remember. Back then, some of the books that had the greatest impact on her life were young adult novels, and now, as an adult, she’s found her own passion in writing books for teens. Her first novel, Charm & Strange, was named the 2014 winner of the William L. Morris YA Debut Award and Complicit, published in 2014, has received multiple starred reviews. Delicate Monsters is forthcoming (2015.)
Other passions include mental health advocacy, social justice, and sports of all kinds. When she’s not writing or reading (or studying for graduate school), she’s usually outside running or playing with her family. She currently lives in Northern California with her husband, three kids, and menagerie of pets. Life is loud, joyous, and filled with animal hair.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, her last name is pronounced keen.
–Julie Bartel, currently reading Andrew Smith’s Grasshopper Jungle and The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear
Twelve-year-old Sunny has a lot going on as summer rolls in on Greenwood, Mississippi, 1964. The Beatles are spinning out one new album after another – yeah, yeah, yeah. Her new stepmother has moved in, bringing along her children, Gillette and Audrey. Gillette’s not so bad for a brother. He and Sunny are bonding through forbidden adventures, such as swimming in the town pool at night. As it turns out, Ray, a black boy, is taking a secret swim when Gillette and Sunny break in. Sunny’s terrified screams attract the police. Ray escapes, but suddenly she and Gillette are in a whole lot of trouble.
Sunny does not realize that Greenwood would soon be the focus of the entire nation, as volunteers from up North mobilize to register black voters throughout the state of Mississippi. Although the Constitution allowed all citizens over the age of 21 to vote, many Southern states had enacted laws that required tests, fees, and other obstacles to black suffrage. The movement to infiltrate the South and support black communities came to be called Freedom Summer. Ironically, many would lose their freedom – and some their lives – before the summer ended.
As she did in the first book of The Sixties Trilogy, Countdown, Wiles pulls together first person accounts, photographs, and music to add authenticity and flavor to Sunny’s fictional story. The video clip below mimics that conjunction, with The Roots‘ performance of the Freedom Song, “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Me Turn Around,” included in Revolution, with images from the Civil Rights movement.