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Your Connection to Teen Reads
Updated: 17 hours 45 min ago

Tweets of the Week: May 16

Fri, 05/16/2014 - 07:00

Some bookish news from this week…





Just for Fun:

~ Jennifer Rummel, currently reading The One by Kiera Cass

Forecast clear? Hit the Road and Read!

Fri, 05/16/2014 - 07:00

photo by flickr user seanrnicholson

There are many kinds of road trips; you’ve got your epic cross-country odyssey, your basic weekend escape destination, your communing-with-nature car-camping expedition, your established scenic byway (Route 66, Blue Ridge Parkway, California’s coastal 101…) but when the weather (finally!) takes a turn towards sunny and warm, any and all kinds of travel on our myriad motorways start to call to me, and I love to see the same “hit-the-road” enthusiasm reflected in my reading.

Reading about a road trip gives me that vicarious travel thrill, and sometimes (usually) even inspires me to plan an adventure of my own when I’ve put the book down, even if all I can realistically manage is an afternoon picnic to the other side of town.

Below are three novels that take their road trip credentials seriously while simultaneously delivering believable characters and engaging plots.

Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson (2011 YALSA Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults)

Sometimes when you pack up a car and hitthe road, it’s a one-way trip. Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour is about the kind of road trip you embark on when you’re really leaving something behind, not just for a brief adventure or a temporary escape, but to actually start over again, geographically and emotionally. Amy has been tasked with getting her mother’s Jeep from southern California to Connecticut, where her mother waits with a new house and a new life for them both. But there’s a small problem; Amy hasn’t driven at all since her father died in a car accident months before, and the very thought of getting behind the wheel sets her on edge.

Enter Roger, son of an old family friend and designated chauffeur, who happens to be game for some minor (and not-so-minor) itinerary adjustments. This makes a seriously satisfying road trip read because of all the quintessential car travel details like snacks, tunes (character-built playlists are included as Amy and Roger take turns queuing up the iPod), and ephemera; snapshots, receipts, ticket stubs, and local interest brochures are included in the “scrapbook” pages at each new chapter. The story itself capitalizes on the premise of a transformational journey to great effect, offering up emotionally resonant plotting alongside some choice road-trip detours.

Shift by Jennifer Bradbury

If you’re ready to take your road-trip reading to next level (or if perhaps you’re waiting for that magical 25th birthday, when the final road barrier is lifted as the wonderful world of car rentals opens up to you), may I recommend this excellently-executed mystery about two friends taking the ultimate post-graduation adventure; a cross-country exploration by bicycle. A road trip in the technical sense that Chris and Win are, in fact, traveling across the country on the nation’s roads, but the stakes are raised here by both the physical endurance test of, y’know, riding a bike 3,000 miles, and by the fallout of a fight which causes the guys to separate before the end of the trip. Then Win falls entirely off the grid, and everyone assumes Chris knows where he is. The FBI gets involved and everything.

Many of the beloved details of car travel must necessarily fall by the proverbial wayside here, as there’s no shuffling of driving or radio duties when everyone’s on their own vehicular transport. But what Shift lacks in classic car-trip points, it more than makes up for in dynamic characterizations and plotting; Chris and Win have a realistic and varied friendship with a lot of history, and they are embarking on a meticulously-planned, much-hyped, physically-taxing trip designed to mark their transition away from high school. Inevitably, the road does not always run smoothly (har har), but the reading flies by.

How to be Bad by Lauren Myracle, Sarah Mlynowski and E. Lockhart

Told in alternating chapters by three distinct characters, with each character written by one of the authors, this is an easy-reading ride through sunny (and strange) Florida over a weekend. Jesse and Vicks are already friends, and Mel is the new girl at their waffle-joint job that no one’s quite sure of. When Jesse, in an attempt to avoid new realities at home, proposes they drive the nine hours south to Miami to visit Vicks’ recently-relocated-for-college boyfriend, Mel offers to pay for gas, and suddenly the three girls are a team, if a slightly uneasy one, with a mission.

Questionable roadside eating establishments, a massive weather system, and the requisite Florida gators (both stuffed and live) all make appearances, keeping the road travel just this side of misadventure. The three distinct voices help the emotional arcs to keep pace with the miles logged, and it’s fun to read a team effort from authors who have each written very successful novels on their own. Plus, I love a road-trip story that can demonstrate so entertainingly that all the quirky pit-stops, navigational detours, and personal discoveries of a major, multi-week excursion can be equally accessible without crossing state borders, at least with the right attitude.

There are so many great road trip reads out there; I’d love to hear from you in the comments about what you read to get amped up to hit the road!

-Carly Pansulla

Is This the Real Life? Diversity

Thu, 05/15/2014 - 07:00

Diversity in youth literature has been a big topic of late. So, for this month’s contemporary YA lit book list, I am going to highlight some titles with various aspects of diversity in them (including a book that includes financial struggle). I know I will miss some, but these are the titles that popped into my head and I want you all to tell me of more titles!

The Tyrant’s Daughter by J.C. Carleson
Laila’s father was killed in a coup, and her family has been exiled to the United States from the Middle East. While she’s trying to adjust to a new life and culture, her mom is conspiring to get the family throne back.

I’m Just Me by M.G. Higgins
Nasreen and Mia are two very different girls who stand out at their school, making them targets for bullying and racial slurs, both at school and online. So the girls come together and hatch a plan for revenge.

Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia by Jenny Torres Sanchez
Frenchie Garcia can’t come to grips with the death of a classmate. No one can figure out why its bothering her so much, but she hasn’t told anyone she was with him the night he died. So she sets out to recreate his last night and figure out what went wrong.

Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah
Sixteen-year-old Amal has decided to wear a hijab full time. She didn’t think a piece of cloth would be such a big deal, but it changes everything.

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina (2014 Pura Belpré Award and 2014 YALSA Top Ten Quick Picks)
This is what Piddy Sanchez is told upon her arrival at school. Problem is, Piddy doesn’t even know who Yaqui Delgado is or what she could possibly have done to make her mad, since she’s the new kid at school.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (2014 Odyssey Honor Book and 2014 Printz Honor Book)
Eleanor doesn’t wear the right clothes or do the right things. She can’t afford to, but when she meets Park, her whole world changes and she has hope.

-Faythe Arredondo

Jukebooks: This Side of Salvation by Jeri Smith-Ready

Wed, 05/14/2014 - 07:00

David’s family is still recovering from the trauma of the death of his older brother, John, who died while serving in the military. For David, baseball and religious faith have been essential in rebuilding his life. Then he meets Bailey, and despite their different beliefs, he falls deeply in love. All seems to be on track until David tells his family about a preacher who predicts the Rapture will occur on May 11, at 3:00 am. Far from reacting with the expected laughs, David’s parents are intrigued. And then, after meeting the preacher, they become true believers. David’s parents begin to prepare for the end of the world.

David and Bailey listen to the Grammy Award winning band, Arcade Fire. In her author’s note, Smith-Ready writes about her own love for the band, particularly Arcade Fire’s second album, Neon Bible. She explains, ” …Neon Bible is about adolescence, when many of us first learn that the world can hurt us. Neon Bible and this novel both chronicle the struggle to retain hope in the face of this revelation.” A single on this album, “Intervention,” speaks of revolution, violent separation from misguided rulers. The music video sets the powerful lyrics against scenes from a 1925 silent movie, Battleship Potemkin, now considered a prime example of revolutionary propaganda. The combination is chilling.

Because of copyright issues, the music video has to be played directly on YouTube. But it’s worth the extra click.

-Diane Colson, currently reading A Volcano Beneath the Snow: John Brown’s War on Slavery by Albert Marrin

Reading for the Fun of It

Tue, 05/13/2014 - 07:00

May 11-17 is “Reading is Fun Week,” run by Reading Is Fundamental , an organization that works to get books into the hands of children so that they can discover the joys of reading. As a youth services librarian, I often tell parents that their child will be a better reader if they read more, and a key to this is to make sure they are reading for fun.  This doesn’t just apply to elementary school kids, though. Young adults and adults should be reading for fun, too. Now  this got me wondering…do teens read for fun? Come to think of it…do I read for fun?

One thing I do not remember doing much of when I was in high school was reading for the fun of it. In fact, it took a while for me to remember reading anything other than what was assigned to me in school. I really had to think about it for a while before remembering that I actually read a lot of books for fun when I was a teen.  I read R.L. Stine and fantasy books, Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, and I started to get more into adult fiction because there just weren’t as many Young Adult books and authors back in those days. Today, publishers and authors have tapped into the Young Adult market in a way I wish they had when I was in high school.

Many of the titles that come out for young adults these days seem to be too heavy for me, though. What I mean by “heavy” is that so many of the books are dark, or have deep themes, or can require a lot of thinking to really understand. Dystopian novels often showcase the possibilities of what could be if society takes a dark turn, post-apocalyptic novels get people thinking about how they would handle life after a similar event, and there are scores of true life books dealing with issues from rape to anorexia to bullying. I’m not saying that these books shouldn’t be written or read- on the contrary, they are incredibly important and I am pleased to see that they are voraciously read by all ages. What I’m saying is they aren’t the first things that come to mind when I’m looking for something light hearted that will make me laugh.

This brings me back to the fact that I really had to think hard to remember what I read as a teen when I just wanted something fun to read. The books I easily remember reading were the dark, thought provoking class assignments. I think, maybe, that even though we need the light-hearted stuff, it doesn’t stick in our minds as well as the books we have to think about, which isn’t fair to the books that I read and liked so much because they were exactly the opposite! Could it be that the lighter the book, the easier it is for it to float right out of our consciousness?

I am aware that what I consider fun may not be fun for others, and vice versa. When I really sit down and think about it, fun is quite subjective. What follows are some of my favorite fun YA reads- some of which I had to go browse my Goodreads list to remember!


My Most Excellent Year: A novel of Love, Mary Poppins & Fenway Park (which I’ve mentioned before but love so much I’m using it again) by Steve Kluger- Told in essays, memos and emails this book has a little bit of everything in it- baseball, musicals, political activism and sneaking backstage to meet Mary Poppins included.  While many of the plot details are serious subjects, such as Alé wanting to do musical theatre against her parents’ wishes, Augie coming out to himself since everyone around him already knows, and T.C. trying to reach the deaf boy who keeps discreetly telling him the next pitch, they are dealt with in such a positive manner that the whole book has an overall great vibe. And since it takes place in Boston, my favorite city in the world, I only love it more.


Who Done It?  edited by Jon Scieszka contains short alibis from many suspects- that is, YA authors- including John Green, Libba Bray, David Levithan and Lauren Oliver. They’ve all been invited to a gathering thrown by their enemy- that is, editor- Herman P. Mildew…and he just happens to be dead on arrival. So who did it? It certainly seems like everyone there had a reason to commit murder, and some of those alibis are a little on the flimsy side. For fans of mystery this should be a hit, but as a non-mystery fan I still thoroughly enjoyed it. It introduced me to several authors I’d not read before and it was definitely funny, as well as strangely informative about pickles.


This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith is a fun romance set in a New England  beach town that is overrun with a movie production because the teen male lead wants to meet the girl he’s been talking to online. It starts with an accidental email exchange between movie star Graham Larkin and small town ice cream store clerk Ellie O’Neil, briefly turns into a case of mistaken identity, and even amidst secrets on both sides and Hollywood disillusionment ends quite satisfactorily. While the premise of a famous celebrity accidentally emailing and then falling for you is unlikely, it’s not impossible, and I couldn’t help but pull for them through the whole novel.


The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare is actually kind of dark, now that I think about it– but it’s so much fun to read. It has action, romance, and I admit that I cried and cried at the end of the trilogy, which I thought ended in the best possible way and in a way I totally didn’t anticipate.  In an effort to avoid spoilers, I’ll leave it at that. What I liked so much about Infernal Devices was that it’s a combination of steampunk, historical fiction, action, romance, and science fiction. Starting with 2011 Teens’ Top Ten winning title Clockwork Angel, this series has little elements of so many different genres that I never got bored with it and I liked it even more than the one that follows it chronologically.


Now I want to hear what you consider a fun read. Did you have to wrack your brain for it, or did it just come to you? Fill the comments up with titles that just made you feel good or made you laugh!

-Carla Land, currently reading Strobe Edge volume 2 by Io Sakisaka


Young Adult-Picture Book Pairings: Happy Mothers’ Day!

Mon, 05/12/2014 - 07:00

Happy (belated) Mother’s Day!

It’s always a tight-rope to talk about mothers in kids’ books or YA books. On the one hand, there are lots of mothers, good, bad, and indifferent, who make appearances in books for young people. However, since kids’ books are supposed to be about the kids, and YA books about the teens, the mothers often have to be shuffled into the background. It seems like a disproportionate number of YA protagonists have mothers who are dead or absent, while picture book mothers are often too perfect, since the protagonist kids need to have their adventures against a relatively safe background.

With that said, here are some picture book and YA mothers who have stuck out to me. I know I can’t begin to cover all of them, so please add your favorites (or least favorites!) in the comments, and check out Wendy Daughdrill’s post that celebrates mothers in YA lit.

Picture Books

The Berenstein Bears and Mama’s New Job by Stan and Jan Berenstein. The Berenstein Bears are one of those picture book families in which the mother sometimes seems a little too perfect. I feel like this tendency is more pronounced in later books in the series, especially in the ones where poor Papa Bear becomes the bad example time and again. However, the series also has a lot of good, realistic parenting moments (maternal and paternal), and I think Mama’s New Job is one of these. It shows the process of Mama going from a stay-at-home bear to a working woman and how the whole family makes the adjustment and helps her along the way.

Harriet, You’ll Drive Me Wild by Mem Fox, illustrated by Marla Frazee. I, as a mother, love this book because Harriet’s mom is not perfect. She tries and tries not to yell, while Harriet tries and tries not to get in trouble, but in the end, Harriet’s mom just loses it and starts yelling. All turns out ok, and Harriet and her mom both learn about apologizing and trying again.

Love You Forever by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Sheila McGraw. Ah, the book that parents love to hate. I’ve heard about people who love this book and people who hate it, but not a whole lot of middle ground. In it, a mother sings the same lullaby to her son as he grows older, and older, and older (including into adulthood), and people seem to see it as either a testament to maternal love’s endurance or an example of maternal overprotectiveness. I remember listening to this book as a kid, and I always though the scene where the mother drives across town to rock her adult son to be funny and charming–of course, I thought, no real mother would do that, but lots of mothers probably feel like they could. Love it or hate it, Love You Forever is a classic “mother” picture book.

Yoko Learns to Read by Rosemary Wells. Yoko is a Japanese American cat for whom learning to read in English becomes much quicker after she discovers the library, because she and her mother have only three (Japanese) books at home. I like the Yoko stories because they show how Yoko’s mother helps Yoko even while she navigates her own difficulties in a new culture–in this case, she doesn’t want to tell the teacher that she herself can not read English. Yoko is both supported by her mother and has the chance to teach her in return.

Heckedy Peg by Audrey Wood, illustrated by Don Wood. This is a book I remember loving in early elementary school, and it’s one my kids check out over and over again from the library. While a witch who turns seven kids into food is certainly the attention-grabbing character in the story, it’s the kids’ mother who turns out to be the star. She follows the witch to her hut in the woods, demands to be admitted until she’s successful, and correctly guesses which child has been turned into which food to save them all from the curse. At the end of the story, she ensures that the witch will never bother her family again.

YA Books

The White Bicycle by Beverley Brenna (2013 Printz Honor Book, 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults). Taylor Jane Simon is nineteen years old and has a summer job in France, but her mother, Penny, insists on tagging along. Taylor has Asperger’s Syndrome, and as the story progresses, Taylor’s narration lays out the ways in which Penny is overprotective and “often wrong.” I find this book interesting because, given Taylor’s unique point of view (I wouldn’t go so far as to call her an unreliable narrator), the reader can see both the ways that Penny is overprotective and some of the reasons why. The summer’s experiences, however, give Taylor the determination to demand her own independence, and start to prepare Penny for giving it to her.

The Tyrant’s Daughter by J.C. Carleson (2015 Best Fiction for Young Adults Nominee). Her father’s death in a violent coup has forced Laila, her mother, and her younger brother to flee to suburban Washington, D.C. from their Middle Eastern country. While Laila tries to figure out the truth behind who her father was and reconcile this with her memories, her mother stays busy pretending that their life is still under control and desperately trying to negotiate with the CIA about how the current civil war back home should be managed. The struggles of a family who have far bigger issues on their minds while still getting through daily life prove a fascinating read.

Zel by Donna Jo Napoli (2005 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults). In this retelling of the fairy tale Rapunzel, Napoli gives three viewpoints on the events: Zel’s, her love Konrad’s, and the “witch’s,” known only in the story as “Mother.” In telling Mother’s side of the story, Napoli provides a fascinating examination into what factors would make a woman steal a baby to raise as her own, and then imprison the young woman she professes to love so much.

A Wreath for Emmett Till by Marilyn Nelson, illustrated by Phillipe Lardy (2006 Printz Honor Book, 2006 Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book). Unlike the other books in this list, A Wreath for Emmett Till is neither fiction nor narrative, but a collection of poems (a “heroic crown of sonnets,” to be exact) commemorating the life of the young boy who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955. It includes two poems that focus on his mother, Mamie Till Mobley, one that likens her to Mary, mother of Jesus. The afterword notes that Till Mobley dedicated the rest of her life to civil rights activism.

Imani All Mine by Connie Porter (2000 Alex Award Winner, 2000 Top 10 Best Books for Young Adults). This is this only YA book I know of (and now I expect to get a flood of others!) where the protagonist is a mother herself. Tasha is a fifteen year old mother who still likes to do the normal teenager things (watch TV, hang out with her friends), but is deeply devoted to her baby Imani and to being a good mother. She also has to deal with the violence in her neighborhood, and her fear of the man who raped her. Porter examines not just Tasha’s motherhood, but also her relationship with her own mother and the difficulty that poverty brings to being a mother of any age.

The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan (2006 Best Books for Young Adults). While Percy Jackson’s mom takes more of a back seat than the other moms in this list, she is certainly an interesting character in her own right. She stays married to an abusive and (literally) smelly man, but stands up to him by finding blue food to eat. She seems blind to all of Percy’s failings, but continues to send him away to boarding school. As the book progresses, both Percy and the reader slowly learn why his mom makes the choices she does, and her own brand of heroism shines through even while the book is focused on Percy’s hero’s journey.

-Libby Gorman, currently (still) reading The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

My Mom Made Me a Reader

Mon, 05/12/2014 - 07:00

I hope everyone had a lovely Mother’s Day. Truthfully the holiday is bittersweet for me, since my mom passed away nine years ago this month. But I do have happy memories of her, and many of them are connected to books and to reading. She was a voracious reader who passed that love of books on to me. I’d rather read than do almost anything else. (This is why my house looks like it does.)

When I was small, she read to me daily. We shared Pauline Palmer’s The Just Alike Princes, No Flying in the House by Betty Brock, Margery Clark’s Poppy Seed Cakes, and many, many fairy tales and fables. As soon as I could read on my own, she let me have free rein in the public library. While she checked on what I was reading, she never stopped me from reading anything. This led me to discover The Bobbsey Twins, Harriet the Spy, and every word Judy Blume ever wrote.

My mom’s favorite genre was Science Fiction. She loved Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Series and Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? When the movie Blade Runner came out (it was based on Do Androids Dream…) mom and I eagerly went to the cinema together to see how the adaptation worked.

This love of SF led me to read everything from Asimov’s I, Robot to Frank Herbert’s Dune to Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series to novelizations of Battlestar Galactica and Star Wars to Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

My mom was also fond of nonfiction, specifically biographies. Her influence may have made me the only twelve year old on the planet who read both Lauren Bacall’s By Myself and Long Live the King: A Biography of Clark Gable by Lyn Tornabene.

Mom’s dementia stopped her from reading for a good couple of years before her death, but I just know she would have loved Harry Potter and John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War series. Whenever I sit down with a new book, I am always grateful for the rock-solid reading foundation she built for me.

How did your mother shape you as a reader? Do you have a memory of your mom and books? Please share your experiences in the comments.

~ Geri Diorio, currently listening to Project Nemesis by Jeremy Robinson

The Monday Poll: Your Dream Comedian YA Author

Sun, 05/11/2014 - 23:43

photo by flickr user abee5

Good morning, Hub readers!

Last week, we asked you to choose the coolest pet in YA lit– and got thoroughly schooled because we neglected to include Angus from Louise Rennison’s Georgia Nicholson books. What were we thinking?! We love Angus! That aside, Bumbersnoot from Gail Carriger’s Etiquette & Espionage came in first with 52% of the vote, followed by Church from Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones (and other books) with 19%. You can see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive. Thanks to all of you who voted and weighed in with comments!

For this week’s poll, we want to address the fact YA lit still has a reputation as being dark and issue-laden. Anyone who’s read even a small sampling of YA books knows that’s not universally true, but we think some celebrity power might go a long way in counteracting the stereotype. So, which funny lady would you like to see author a YA book? (Don’t fret, we’ll poll you about funny guys next week.) Vote in the poll below, or add your suggestions in the comments!

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

2014 Hub Reading Challenge Check In #14

Sun, 05/11/2014 - 07:00

Not signed up for YALSA’s 2014 Hub Reading Challenge? Read the official rules and sign up on the original post. Anything you’ve read since February 3 counts, so sign up now!

Happy Mother’s Day to all moms out there. If you are a mom, how on earth do you have time to read?  Well done, you!  If you have a mom, thank her for helping you learn to read, because I bet she was there for you, starting with singing the ABC song.

In other news:  There are 42* days left in the 2014 Hub Reading Challenge. Don’t Panic!**  That is plenty of time to finish 25 books. And I know many of you fine folks have already read some of the titles on the list, so you don’t even have to try and read .595 books per day to hit 25 on the 22nd.

I just finished The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks and thought it was delightful!  I am not a fan of super hero comics, but you totally don’t have to be to appreciate Superhero Girl and her battles with day-to-day things. (Who hasn’t had a run-in with Skeptical Guy that just ruins your day?) What challenge book have you just finished?

* Ah, the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything.

** Since I started with a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy reference, I figured I should continue.

The 2014 Hub Reading Challenge will run until 11:59PM EST on June 22nd. Keep track of what you are reading/listening to as you go along. Every Sunday we’ll have one of these check-in posts so you can share your thoughts about the book(s) you read/listened to that week, and share links to any reviews you post online. You can also share your thoughts via social media using the #hubchallenge hashtag, or join the 2014 Hub Challenge group on Goodreads. We will be compiling posts from various places online into a Storify collection. You can see the social media conversation below!

If you have already completed the challenge by reading or listening to 25 titles from the list of eligible books, be sure to fill out the form below so we can send you your Challenge Finisher badge, get in touch to coordinate your reader’s response, and, perhaps best of all, notify you if you win our exciting grand prize drawing! Be sure to use an email you check frequently and do not fill out this form until you have completed the challenge by reading/listening to 25 titles.