The Hub

Subscribe to The Hub feed
Your Connection to Teen Reads
Updated: 17 hours 12 min ago

Tweets of the Week: April 4

Fri, 04/04/2014 - 07:00

Here are some great bookish tweets from this week:






Just for Fun:

~ Jennifer Rummel, currently reading: Hung Up by Kristen Tracy

An Interview With Alex Award Winning Author Lisa O’Donnell

Fri, 04/04/2014 - 06:00
Lisa O’Donnell is a 2014 recipient of YALSA’s Alex Award.  The Alex Award goes to authors who write books for adults that have a teen appeal.  I just read her book and loved it!  The story is told in three points of view, two of them are sisters who are in the process of burying their good for nothing parents in their backyard.  The third voice is the sexual predator neighbor who looks out for them.  O’Donnell agreed to be interviewed about her recent honor.

How did you choose the title, The Death of Bees?

In the first chapters when the girls are burying the bodies of their parents they go to a garden centre to buy lavender to disguise the graves and hide the smell. At the garden centre they meet a woman who scares Nelly about the possible extinction of honeybees. When the girls get home Nelly, who has Autism, obsesses over what the woman has said about the Bees. This makes Marnie angry because the truth is Nelly isn’t afraid of the Bees at all, she is afraid because they’re burying their parents in the backyard, the bees are simply where she projects her fear. Marnie knows this, but won’t acknowledge it either and also hides behind the subject of bees.

Marnie says: “In the end she gets me in a corner, goes right up to my face, not asking anymore but demanding an answer, so I gave her one. ‘I don’t know a fucking thing about the honeybees, so stop asking’”.

Marnie goes on: “She stopped then, hasn’t mentioned the bees since, not one word, but I know she still thinks about them”

Gene and Izzy are therefore the Bees in Nelly’s projected fear.

Nelly is a character who appears to be on the Autism Spectrum. What kind of research did you do to create this character?

Nelly was actually quite difficult to write and in the beginning I walked on eggs around Autism as the cause of her differences because whatever happened to these girls I wanted Nelly to survive, but the more I read about the gifts children on the Autism Spectrum are often blessed with I knew I would be able to save her. Children with Autism are resilient, intelligent and able for life, that’s how I wanted Nelly to be seen in the end. She survives two horrific parents; a difficult sister who in the end leans on the coping skills of Nelly who reveals herself to be more than able for life’s challenges.

Lisa O’Donnell

What do you want readers to take away from the line where Marnie says this about Nelly, “She’s just not like normal people and can’t fake it, which is more than can be said about me. I’ve been faking it my whole life.”

Marnie has spent her life protecting her sister and herself from the horrors of their childhood, which includes deterring Welfare Services and local school authorities by pretending everything is fine when it just isn’t. Marnie is older than her years and is forced in adulthood when she is just a child while Nelly holds steadfast to her childhood. As the story progresses however Marnie begins to crumble but when she says to the reader “I’ve been faking it my whole life” this is the point when Marnie really begins to unravel.

Where did your inspiration for Lennie come from?

My mother was only 16 when she had me and she relied on my grandparents support to raise my sister and myself. I was very attached to my grandparents and especially my grandfather who liked to bake and cook, especially on a Sunday, which was my grandmother’s day of rest. I actually named Lennie after my grandfather, but Lennie himself was drawn from various sources other than my grandfather. There was an old couple that lived on the small Island where I come from, they were known to be gay, but they weren’t flamboyant. They were just two quiet old men who’d go everywhere together in their little grey caps and raincoats. They had this little terrier they’d walk and then one day it was just one old man. His friend had died. He was alone and I felt so sad for him. I don’t know what happened to him in the end. I left the Island to go to University but I never forgot this couple and their little dog. Lennie and Joseph in The Death of Bees pay homage to their love story in a way.

Which of the three main characters can you relate to the most?

I relate to all of my characters, there’s a much of what I’ve loved and lost in life in all of them.

 The story is written in three points of view. What is it like to write in that way? Will you write future novels in this style?

When I first wrote The Death of Bees it was from Marnie’s POV only, but I got bored with her voice and so I deleted 10 chapters and started again, but with three different voices instead. That was the best thing I ever did, it was also the hardest. It’s not easy for a writer to dump a 100 words never mind around 10,000. Anyway I felt like I needed to hear more from her sister who would in the end help me draw Marnie better for the reader and then I wrote Lennie who helped me draw both girls better.

What do you want readers to take away from the line where Marnie says this about Kirkland, “What he doesn’t get is that the real outsiders would do anything to be on the inside. A real outsider can’t be seen at all.”

The Death of Bees is about lots of things but loneliness is a prevalent theme. Everyone wants to belong somewhere in life but Marnie deep down believes she doesn’t belong anywhere. She wants to belong and she works hard at seeming like she does, but inside she knows she’s faking it and that’s what makes her an outsider in her heart.

-Kris Hickey, currently reading Princess Labelmaker To The Rescue by Tom Angleberger

Novels in Verse for Poetry Month

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 07:00

You are aware, I’m sure, that April is National Poetry Month. This brainchild of the Academy of American Poets has been celebrated since 1996, and the Academy’s website has a plethora of great ideas ideas of ways to celebrate, but why not celebrate by simply reading more poetry?

What’s that? Poetry is “too hard?” Do not fear iambic pentameter, sestinas, or villanelles! But if you would rather not attempt a sonnet, a haiku, or even a limerick, there is a great way to ease yourself into the world of poems: novels written in verse. The tales are so compelling and the verse so subtle, you won’t even realize you are reading poetry. Quite often, novels in verse tackle very hard subjects. It can be astonishing how authors cover deep, dark topics with just a few, perfectly chosen words.

Here are a few to get you started:

My Book of Life By Angel – Martine Leavitt 
Angel is sixteen when Call gives her “candy” that makes her fly, and asks her to start sleeping with his friends. Soon, Angel is hooked on drugs and is working the streets as a prostitute. When Call brings home an even younger girl, Angel plans to escape this life she’s found herself in, and take young Melli with her. Leavitt’s books have appeared on multiple Best Books for Young Adults lists, and after reading her work, you will understand why.

Freakboy – Kristin Clark (2014 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults)
Brendan seems to be a guy’s guy. He’s a wrestler, has a lovely girlfriend, and loves video games, but deep inside, he wants long hair and soft skin and a curvy body. Brendan is transexual and he’s trying to figure out who he is. He has never met anyone else who is like him, and he is frightend that he is “not normal”, whatever that means.

To Be Perfectly Honest – Sonya Sones 
Author Sones has had her work appear on many Young Adult Library Services Association awards lists. Her latest novel features Colette, daughter of a famous movie star. Colette is a self professed liar, so readers are warned right away about the unreliability of this narrator. While on location with her mother shooting a movie, Colette meets a guy who might just get her to stop lying.

– Ellen Hopkins
The latest book from award winning author Hopkins (she has had many of her novels chosen as Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers), continues the story begun in the novel Burned. It is the story of Pattyn, a young woman who, with her sister, suffered abuse at their father’s hands. Now their father is dead, and Pattyn is on the run, trying to rebuild her life.


Hideous Love – Stephanie Hemphill 
Mary Shelley was a teen when she wrote Frankenstein, and her life was almost as unbelievable as her fantastic imagination. Hemphill, a 2008 Printz honor author, describes how Shelley’s wild life in nineteenth century Europe led to the creation of the timeless novel that basically invented the science fiction genre.

Coaltown Jesus – Ron Koertge (2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults)
After his older brother dies, Walker prays, vaguely, to whomever is up there. He is shocked when his prayers are answered and Jesus – yes that Jesus – appears in his home. Jesus is not quite what Walker, or most Christians, expect; he’s witty and a bit irreverent. But he is compassionate, and he does help this young man begin to overcome his grief.


October Mourning – Leslea Newman (2013 Stonewall Book Award honor book
In the fall of 1998, Matthew Shepard, a Wyoming college student, was killed by two men because he was gay. Newman uses many different types of poetic forms to tell Matthew’s story. She alternates points of view, “speaking” as Matthew, as the fence he was tied to, as the stars above him, even as a deer who stayed near him in the night. The words may be sparse, but the emotions they convey are powerful.

~ Geri Diorio, currently reading Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones

Jukebooks: The Sound of Letting Go by Stasia Ward Kehoe

Wed, 04/02/2014 - 07:00

Daisy’s family is in crisis. Her younger brother, Steven, is autistic, and his violent outbursts have become dangerous as he grows bigger and stronger. Daisy escapes into music, playing her trumpet in the jazz ensemble at her school. At one time, Daisy was an “…orchestra-guest-worthy prodigy horn player,” but Steven’s care has required the family resources to be diverted from her musical development. Nevertheless, playing jazz is Daisy’s refuge from the problems at home. When Daisy’s parents decide that Steven must move out of the home for better care, Daisy suspects that she should be relieved. Isn’t this her chance for freedom? Instead, she’s angry, and finds herself turning away from music and her dreams for her future.

Daisy loves Kind of Blue, an album by Miles Davis and members of his jazz sextet. It’s “…kind of, always, how I feel,” Daisy describes. She’s not alone in her admiration. The smooth, beautiful melodies introduced a shift in the improvisational possibilities of jazz, resulting in music that feels as if it could go on forever. The album was recorded in two sessions and released in August 1959. Many regard it as the best jazz album ever.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Kind of Blue’s release, Columbia Records reissued the album in 2008. (Not fifty years, is it?) Below is a short clip elucidating its effect on jazz music.

-Diane Colson, currently reading Grandmaster by David Klass

Hub Photo Challenge: Spine Poetry

Wed, 04/02/2014 - 07:00

April is National Poetry Month and, in celebration, we challenge you to release your inner poet and create a book spine poem!

Spine poetry refers to the art of arranging books so that the titles on the spine form a poem. For this challenge, all you need to do is arrange any of the books that are included in the 2014 Hub Reading Challenge into a poem, take a photo and submit it to us!

Here’s an example from Hub manager Allison Tran:

We’ll post some of the best book spine poems on The Hub and one grand prize winner will receive a signed copy of Every Day by David Levithan! Here is the fine print:

  1. For privacy reasons, make sure there aren’t any people in your pictures, please!
  2. All entries must be sent to by April 25th to be considered. Please include your mailing address if you would like to be eligible to win the grand prize.
  3. Poems must be composed ONLY from book spines of 2014 Hub Reading Challenge eligible titles to be considered.
  4. Participants worldwide are welcome to participate just for fun, but the grand prize can only be mailed a winner located in the United States.
  5. By submitting your photo, you are consenting to its publication by YALSA on The Hub or any other YALSA social media accounts, though we are under no obligation to publish all submissions that we receive.

A selection of the best poems from our readers and bloggers will be posted at the end of the month to celebrate poetry and the winner will be announced at the same time. Good luck!

-Carli Spina, Hub Advisory Board member

Fashion Hits and Misses from YA Historical Fiction Book Covers, Part 2

Tue, 04/01/2014 - 07:00

I love historical fiction.  The drama, the intrigue and, oh– the fashion.  I just assume all the period details regarding clothing are accurate.  Or I did until my friend Liz shared it was her secret delight to troll the adult fiction section and find anachronistic apparel.  Curious to know how Liz knows all that she does about fashion?  Check out her bio in the first post Fashion Hits and Misses from YA Historical Fiction Book Covers.

Turns out a lot of books from specific dates and locations feature outfits as cover art that either haven’t been invented yet or were way out of fashion.  I was eager to know if these same mistakes were being made in Young Adult historical fiction. After all, how was I to know? Here are some examples of books that got it right and those that got it wrong.

In Mozart’s Shadow by Carolyn Meyer

Hit, sort of – In Mozart’s Shadow: His Sister’s Story (alternate title In Mozart’s Shadow: Nannerl’s Story) by Carolyn Meyer

The novel In Mozart’s Shadow: His Sister’s Story is set in eighteenth-century Europe. Older sister Nannerl remains home in Salzburg, Austria while her brother Mozart travels and performs.  How does the cover art compare?

The idea of the appropriate style of dress is there, but the quality of the fashion is poor and ill-fitting.   This particular dress looks like one you would wear for an “old-timey” photo.  The style of the time was a low-necked gown made from woven silks in elaborate patterns worn over panniers, a cage-like garment which extended the hips at the sides.  The bodice would be tightly fitted over a stiff pair of stays, known by modern terminology as a corset.  The front of the bodice exposed a stomacher, which was a triangle-shaped piece which was elaborately decorated.  Sleeves were normally close-fitting and worn to the elbow with ruffle and lace embellishments.  The skirt was often open in the front to expose the petticoat which was decorated to match.  There were several different types of dress worn at the time, but most did follow the same silhouette as described here. 

MMA 1750-1775, Purchase, Irene Lewisohn Bequest, 1959

This Robe à la Française is from the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History which includes French fashion from 1600–1800 A.D.

Nannerl as a Child, by Peter Anton Lorenzoni, 1763

For more appropriate eighteenth-century gowns that might have been worn by Nannerl see Liz’s Pinterest page: Young Ladies Fashions 1756-1781

Miss – My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century by Rachel Harris

My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century by Rachel Harris

My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century by Rachel Harris is set in modern times. With time travel, Cat Crawford ends up in 16th century Italy.  The dress featured on the cover is from the 18th century and continued to thrive as a major force in art into the period of this book.

The dress featured on the cover is from the eighteenth-century and could have been worn by Nannerl in the previous book example.  The sixteenth-century, on the other hand, is known for the silhouette of an inverted triangle found in the bodice above a wide triangle shaped skirt.  The fronts of the bodices were completely flat hiding the curve of the bust.  This silhouette was created by a pair of bodies, also known as stays in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and then as a corset from the nineteenth-century to present.  The pair of bodies of this period maintained its flat front by a center busk (a flat piece of wood, metal, bone, or scrimshaw).  The skirts were full and cartridge pleated into a waistband and worn over a form of hoopskirt called a farthingale, which created the large triangle-shape on the bottom.  Skirts were often open at front to expose a decorative underskirt.   Although by description this does sound similar to eighteenth-century dress, in reality they were quite different as can be seen in the image examples.

Portrait of a Woman, mid-16th c. Florence, Italy

Portrait of a Woman, mid-16th c. Florence, Italy (exact artist unknown, possibly Francesco Salviati and, more plausibly, to Michele di Ridolfo Tosini), MMA, The Friedsam Collection, Bequest of Michael Friedsam, 1931 (32.100.66)

Portrait of Eleanor of Toledo and Her Son, ca. 1545, Agnolo di Cosimo (Il Bronzino), Uffizi Gallery, Florence

If you want to learn more about  18th century fashion try:

  • Dress in Eigteenth-Century Europe 1715-1789 by Aileen Ribeiro

Or for a more colonial look:

  • What Clothes Reveal: The Language of Clothing in Colonial and Federal America by Linda Baumgarten

For examples of 16th century fashion, check out Liz’s Pinterest board Sixteenth Century Italian Womenswear.

-Laura C. Perenic, currently reading The Scar Boys by Len Vlahos

How large is your personal library?

Mon, 03/31/2014 - 07:00

My family is getting ready for an interstate move and putting our house up for sale. As a result, lots of our possessions, including most of our books, are currently residing in our garage so that our house is ready to “show” to potential buyers. It’s a little sad to see all the books sitting out there, some of them not even yet packed for the actual move:

All this shifting and (some) boxing has made me wonder about how people manage the size of their book collections. In the spirit of Julie Bartel’s What Your Bookshelves Say About You post, I asked Hub bloggers to share, and here are some of their responses:

Sarah Debraski: Our personal library is immense-overwhelmingly so. I’ve never counted but I can confidently say between all of my books I’ve collected over the years, my husband’s books, and our kids books it’s definitely over a 1000 books. It’s actually the biggest consumer of our household space and something that I’ve been finding kind of troubling.  In my professional life I’m a great weeder-at home, not so much! Our books are on bookshelves throughout the house, stacks on dressers, all along a full wall of shelves in a basement room,and in towering stacks on the floor of that room. Some books I’ve found hard to get rid of because I thought they’d be nice to have someday for my kids, or some future rainy day. I also do love being surrounded by books-I find them comforting and filled with memories!  And once we had kids and started buying books for them it just added to the collection.  That said, this spring we’re having a yard sale, which will include a large book sale. I’m going to weed our collection and truly only keep the books that are extra special to me or that I know I will refer to and reread over the years.

Carla Land: I’m such a librarian…I have four large book cases full of books, plus shelves on other book cases that I use for “special collections” (like all of my Disney related books in one place, all of our tech manuals in one place…) Everything is in Library of Congress order…where it fits. In some cases I have so many books that I have to have them double stacked, one row behind another (this would be the case with my manga!) and I keep the kids/YA/Adult all separated. While I have no problem weeding the library collection, I can’t seem to ever let anything go from my own- I still have all of my college texts, more copies of the Lord of the Rings trilogy than I need, and it seems the only time I can get rid of anything is when I accidentally buy something I already own!

Sadly, I did this sort of thing before I became a librarian, too, so I can’t blame it on the profession!

Becky O’Neil: My personal library is actually quite small (most would say shockingly small, for a librarian!). I have winnowed it down several times over the years, and I would say the main reason is moving so many times. There’s no selection criteria quite like “do I love this book enough to move it AGAIN?!” As I’ve grown more accustomed to (read: spoiled by) access to books at work, I’ve become more particular about what I’ll spend my own money on and what I’ll allow to take up space in my house. Is it an heirloom book — a book I like so much, it’s a piece of me I’d want to bequeath to someone else? Is it an art object book — a book that is too big or too beautiful to ever be appreciated in an e-book form? If the design, craft, texture, or “thingness” of a book really impresses me, that book has a decent chance of ending up in my personal library. Now I just need to buy an actual coffee table…and hope that I always work in a library! :)

Jennifer Rummel: My personal library is an estimated 500 books: many from childhood/teen years, many I bought to read or to support my favorite authors, and several from conferences. I also have quite a few signed books, which I greatly treasure. My books explode in all directions from my library/craft room. Occasionally, I work on taking out the books that aren’t needed, but I confess I have a hard time parting with books.

Brandi Smits: I keep my private library somewhat on the smaller side.  I know that I would go absolutely crazy if I didn’t regulate it…I’m talking about sleeping on books, eating with books, swimming with books…you get the picture.  I only purchase books that I truly love.  If I would read the book a second, third, or tenth time, then I will buy the book.

Allison Tran: My personal library is pretty tiny, considering I’m a librarian. People expect that I’d have a house lined with bookshelves, but we just don’t have enough space in our house! I’ve curated my personal collection to include only books that I know I’ll read over and over (like my Betsy-Tacy books- the ultimate comfort) and autographed copies, particularly ones that are rather rare items. I’ll never part with my signed ARC of Libba Bray’s The Diviners, for example (a 2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults Top Ten selection).

As for me, my family book collection runs from huge to gigantic. My husband enjoys having a large collection, and as a doctoral student, he finds that he uses a wide variety of our collection, sometimes at unexpected points in his writing. I, like Sarah, have no trouble weeding other people’s (or library’s) books, but have difficulty parting from my own books–especially once they’ve been there for awhile. In addition, I’ve had at least two instances when I weeded a book only to realize I wanted to reread it later and then buy the book again. This has made me especially weeding-shy. Between the two of us and our three kids, we have 5 tall bookshelves and 4 short bookshelves packed full of books. I’m hoping that the move will allow for some weeding, but I don’t think I’ll ever get down to a collection that could be considered “small.”

Hub readers, do you have a book collection that’s enormous, or a well-weeded smaller collection? Let us know, especially those of you with tips for managing collections!

-Libby Gorman, currently reading Relic by Heather Terrell

An Interview with Alex Award Winning Author Gavin Extence

Mon, 03/31/2014 - 07:00

Gavin Extence is the author of The Universe Versus Alex Woods, a 2014 Alex Award winning novel that’s surprising, funny, tragic and poignant all at once as it quirkily portrays the life of teenaged British science nerd Alex Woods. Woods was struck in the head by a meteorite in a freak accident when he was 10 and survived, although he was forever changed by the experience. He develops severe epilepsy and because of this, his life unfolds in unexpected and surprising ways.

I always look forward to seeing which titles are selected each year for the Alex Awards (adult books selected for their demonstrated or probable appeal to the personal reading tastes of young adults). I loved this book and it more than deserves the Alex Award. When I heard that Gavin was willing to be interviewed for The Hub, I jumped at the chance and wasn’t disappointed by his thoughtful answers to my many questions.

Q. Your last name is unusual. What’s its origin?

It originates from Devon in the southwest of England, not that far from where Alex lives. My Grandad told me it came from a group of shipwrecked Spanish pirates. I’m not sure if that story is completely true, but it’s the best answer I have, so I’m sticking to it!

Q. Congratulations on the Alex Award! Were you surprised at how much praise the book has received? I remember it was one of NPR’s 5 recommended reads for YA readers last summer.

Thank you. Yes, I was very surprised. I had very modest expectations for my book, and never even thought about it being published outside the UK. But obviously I’m thrilled that so many readers have enjoyed it.

Q. Did you write the book you wanted to write or did you have to change anything you were going to include? Since the book covers Alex’s life from ages 10-17, did you ever consider writing this as a YA book or was it always going to be an adult book?

There wasn’t much I changed between the first draft and the last – just minor details, really. But I did a lot of polishing to make the book as good as I could. I always thought I was writing a story for adults, although I also wanted to paint a very clear and immediate picture of adolescence, and I knew I wanted the writing to be fairly straightforward and accessible. But I never really considered the YA audience until my publisher said they wanted to market the book as ‘crossover’. However, it’s wonderful to reach a wide readership. So far the youngest person to have read the book, that I’m aware of, is 10 (too young!) and the oldest is 101.

Q. Your author bio indicates that you are an amateur astronomer. Did that influence your decision to have a meteorite hit Alex to trigger his seizures instead of some other cause? It’s a perfectly strange yet fitting explanation and one of the reasons I love the book so much.

Yes – I actually had that part of Alex’s back-story before I knew what the book was going to be about. One night, I was wondering what the chances were of being hit by a meteor and whether it had ever happened (it’s the sort of thing I worry about late at night). It didn’t seem very likely, but the next day I did some research and found this story about a lady in Alabama who got hit by a four kilogram meteorite back in the 1950s. And that was it: as soon as I knew it was possible, I knew it was the perfect way to start Alex’s story.

Q. Do you have a special interest in epilepsy, since it’s a focus of the book?

No, not epilepsy specifically. But I am very interested in the brain – how it works and what can go wrong with it. Epilepsy is one of the many things that marks Alex out as being different from the other children he knows, but it’s also something that helps him empathize with Mr Peterson’s situation later on in the story. I liked the idea that Alex’s epilepsy – his brain malfunctioning – would in some way mirror and foreshadow what happens to his friend.

Q. You have some insightful things to say about being different. “Most of the things the UN considers crimes are not considered crimes at secondary school. Being cruel is fine. Being brutal is fine. Being obnoxious is fine. Being superficial is especially fine. Explosive acts of violence are fine…. None of these things will hurt your social standing. But being different – that’s unforgivable.” You were a chess prodigy as a child. That had to make you stand out a bit from other kids your age. Were you bullied? If so, do you have any reassuring words of advice for kids and teens who feel like misfits?

As a child, I was definitely like Alex in that I was quite geeky – I loved learning and reading and math and a dozen other things that are in no way cool. But unlike Alex, I really tried to hide these aspects of my personality when I became a teenager. Like most teens, I was desperate to fit in, so I tried very hard to be just like everyone else, and for this reason I wasn’t bullied to the extent that Alex is. However, I did – as is unfortunately very common – experience some bullying at school, and I witnessed much more. So I thought it was really important to be honest and give a realistic picture of how cruel kids that age can be.

My advice to any teens like Alex would be this: it’s fine to be a misfit. Actually, it’s more than fine. Some of the greatest achievements in history have come from people who were not like everybody else, who just had a very different way of looking at the world. Einstein, Beethoven, Leonardo da Vinci – you could draw up a pretty impressive list of odd individuals whose contributions to society will last for as long as there are people. Being different is not a crime; it’s an asset – and you’ll find this more and more as you get older.

Q. It’s obvious that you love Kurt Vonnegut and that he was a huge inspiration to you. Alex even starts a book club devoted to Kurt Vonnegut’s books. Your explanation on pages 262-265 about his writing is enlightening. What is it about his writing that you would like to recommend to teens who may have never read him?

Kurt Vonnegut once said that the message of his books was that we should all try to be a little kinder to each other – and I think that’s a message that’s not going to get out-of-date. He’s also very, very funny, and he writes about these huge, important issues in a very simple, incisive and entertaining way. If any of that appeals, give him a go!

Q. Alex’s seizures were so bad that he was confined to his house for a year when he was 11 or so. During that period he reads a lot and lists some of the books he read. Were you a voracious reader when you were younger too? Did you read any YA authors, and if so, who? How have some of the authors you read influenced your writing?

Yes, I always read a lot as a child and teen, but not specifically YA authors. I read mostly fantasy up to the age of about 16 – Tolkien first, and then lots of big US fantasy writers like Terry Brooks and Raymond E Feist and Robert Jordan. Those were the books I really loved growing up, and I think they probably did influence me in some fairly fundamental ways. I still think story is the most important thing in a book – story then character. Everything else is secondary. I also read J.K. Rowling and Phillip Pullman as an adult (from the age of around 20), and really enjoyed both – two more wonderful storytellers. On the whole, I don’t worry too much about the distinction between adult’s books and children’s books anymore: if a book’s well written, it’s worth reading.

Q. I thought it was interesting that as a Brit, you included an American character but didn’t make him a typical “Ugly American” living in a foreign country. Why did you choose to make Mr. Peterson American?

When I first imagined the character he was British, and loosely based on my Grandad who served in the air force in World War Two. But, unfortunately, my Grandad is one of the most gentle and placid men alive, which really didn’t suit the story! So I started changing him a bit – made him much grumpier and gave him a more colorful vocabulary. Then, at some point, I thought it might be interesting if I also made him American and a Vietnam vet – and as soon as I made that decision, his relationship with Alex came alive in my mind. They’re both outsiders – Alex is a pariah and Mr Peterson is a recluse living in exile – and this is what draws them together despite their surface differences. Really, the big emotional arc of the book is all to do with how these very unlikely friends change each other’s lives for the better.

Q. You tackle some tough ethical and legal dilemmas here but deal with them with great humor. Were you worried that people might object to the topic of euthanasia?

No, I don’t think any subject should be out of bounds for fiction. Freedom of expression is one of the cornerstones of both art and democracy, and I think it’s really important for writers to tackle difficult questions – because often they’re the questions that politicians prefer to ignore. As for the humor, that just felt like the natural way for me to tell the story. Humor has always been used to approach difficult questions, in both the UK and the US, and I think it’s also a very normal way of getting through tragedy. Sometimes you can only laugh or cry, and it’s often more helpful to do the former.

Q. I think I caught some sly movie references here, right? A nurse’s last name is Fletcher. As in Louise Fletcher’s role as Nurse Ratchet in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest? Do you think teens will get these references?

I think that particular example was either subconscious or pure chance! But yes, there are quite a few references to other books and films that were very much intentional. But I don’t think it matters too much whether readers get them or not. They’re like Easter eggs on a DVD – fun but not essential.

Q. You’re young for a first-time writer. How long did it take you to write this book and how long did it take to be accepted for publication? What advice can you give to a young person about writing?

It took me one year (working full-time six days a week) to write a first draft, and then another six months to redraft and edit. After that, it was only a month or so before it was accepted for publication. However, that part of the story is actually very misleading. I also spent an additional two years before that writing a whole other book – which was rejected by a dozen literary agents. And really, it was that failed first attempt that taught me all the most valuable lessons about writing. So my main advice to aspiring writers would be: don’t be afraid of failure or rejection. It’s a big part of trying to be a writer and everyone has to go through it (even J.K. Rowling). Additional advice would be: read lots, practise lots, and make sure you enjoy it! Writing should be fun.

Q. Seems like so many authors are inspired to write by listening to music. Is that true for you too? Do you have a playlist for the writing of this book? If Alex was a song, what song would he be?

(Great question!)

Yes, but I very rarely listen to music while I’m writing as it’s too much of a distraction. The exception in Alex was the penultimate chapter; I listened to Mozart’s 21st Piano Concerto while writing it – the same piece they listen to in the book – and it really helped me to get a handle on some of the emotions I was trying to evoke.

If Alex were a song, I think he’d be something by Pink Floyd – complicated, slightly weird even, but still tuneful, and way ahead of his time. Possibly ‘Us and Them’ from The Dark Side of the Moon, because the lyrics make a certain amount of sense for him.

Thank you for your great answers, Gavin!

Hub readers, if you haven’t read The Universe Versus Alex Woods, I hope that his interview will encourage you to pick it up. You can count it as part of your reading for the 2014 Hub Reading Challenge, and I guarantee you’ll enjoy it.

-Sharon Rawlins, currently reading Lady Thief by A.C. Gaughen

The Monday Poll: Supporting Characters Who Deserve Their Own Book

Sun, 03/30/2014 - 23:54

by flickr user Ani-Bee

Good morning, Hub readers!

Last week, we asked you to choose the upcoming YA sequel you’re most looking forward to reading this spring. According to our results, your top pick was Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor, with 35% of the vote, followed by City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare and Nantucket Red by Leila Howland, which tied for 17%. You can see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive. Thanks to all of you who voted, and happy reading when those books come out!

This week, we want to know which secondary character in YA lit deserves a book of their own. Or maybe even a whole series, a la Magnus Bane from Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments books!  Which supporting character do you think deserves the chance to be a protagonist? Vote in the poll below or add your suggestion in the comments if we left out a good one.

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 #8

Sun, 03/30/2014 - 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!

I don’t know about you but I am drowning in good books!  I feel like I’m barely treading water and my to-read pile is threatening to wipe me out any minute now.  This is not a bad problem to have, though I’ll admit it’s making me a little anxious these days.  I’ve got Max Berry’s Lexicon here, which looks so good and is also a challenge title.  I’ve also got a couple of galleys I’m dying to dip into, not to mention the two books I’m currently reading.  And on top of that, Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham’s Veronica Mars novel The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line (in narrated-by-Kristen-Bell-audio and paper) is exhibiting the pull of an especially strong riptide.

Ok, enough with the water metaphors.  It’s a good time to be a reader, don’t you think?  What are you reading?  Are you satisfied with your reading challenge progress?  What books are (last one!) floating your boat these days?  Have you finished the challenge?

Remember, you can follow the challenge on social media by joining the Goodreads 2014 Hub Challenge Group and by using the #hubchallenge hashtag. We’re collecting tweets and hope you’ll join the conversation if you haven’t already!  The challenge ends at 11:59PM EST on June 22nd so you still have plenty of time to participate.

[View the story "The 2014 #hubchallenge" on Storify]

If you are 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, to 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 25 titles.

Ruta Sepetys: Up Close and Personal

Fri, 03/28/2014 - 07:00

Let me start by saying that Ruta Sepetys is a spectacular speaker. As in mind blowing, jaw dropping, side splitting, hands down one-of-the-best-visiting-authors-in-the-world good.  If you get the chance to book her at your library, do so! We had the great fortune to have her as our visiting author last week and she enchanted teachers, students, and parents alike with her remarkable stories.

Ruta started her adult life as a failed opera singer (her words, not mine!), a fact that led her to work behind the scenes in the music industry for 22 years. She came to writing later in life, although her interest in stories manifested itself in all of her many previous endeavors. Indeed, what makes her such an engaging speaker is her own personal narrative. From working on the Halo games to helping singers craft their stories for American Idol to managing well known bands, Ruta has consistently forged her own path and collected countless stories along the way.

Fans of her two books, Between Shades of Gray (2012 Morris Award Finalist) and Out of the Easy (2014 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults), will be particularly interested in how she came to write both novels. An avid researcher, Ruta immerses herself in the historical world she is writing about in order to truly experience the atmosphere she describes so evocatively in both her books. This devotion (dare I say obsession?) with authenticity has led her to be locked up in a WWII-era train car, as well as an overnight stay in a simulated Soviet prison ending in rather disastrous results (a story best heard in person).  Undaunted, Ruta has since schmoozed with the Mafia, visited once glamorous brothels in New Orleans, and even explored a sunken cruise ship replete with possible treasures.

What struck me most about my time spent with Ruta is her extraordinary graciousness. Every single minute of the day, she was focused on being open and available to her admittedly avid fans. She signed books every single day, took numerous selfies with the students, and responded to the many subsequent emails that kids wrote sharing their stories, their secrets, and their aspirations. And within it all, she also took the time to answer a few of my questions for the Hub.  Thank you, Ruta, for your inspiring visit, your commitment to teen readers, and for your lovely books.

Why are you drawn to writing historical fiction?

I’m drawn to secrets and history is full of them. Through characters and narrative, statistics and reported facts suddenly become human and we absorb history in a lasting way.

You equate doing research to being a detective of sorts, what are some of the most interesting things you’ve found in your research that don’t appear in your books?

In the research process for all three of my books I interviewed many people. In nearly every interview someone said, “I’m going to tell you a secret now, something that you can’t put in the book.” There are so many secrets behind the stories. So as I’m writing, I think about the private and personal things people shared with me during my research. I ask myself what the secrets tell us about the human condition– historically and currently. Generally, when people share a confidential story they begin with something like, “I know this is shocking and crazy–” But in truth, many people have actually shared similar secrets with me. Sometimes, the information they’re holding makes them feel quite regretful and isolated. They’ll give me permission to use parts of the story as long as I don’t use their name. I then try to weave elements of the experience into my books, hoping that readers might identify with the story and realize it’s a shared experience. I hope that when a reader recognizes themselves in a book, the world might feel a little less lonely.

Judging from your talks, your writing process seems to be a combination of serendipitous finds mixed with intense firsthand research. Can you explain how the two interrelate and how you use both as inspiration for your stories?

Research leads to discovery and discoveries then require further digging. I may find a locked box, but then I need to find someone who has the key. Once I find the person, we experience unlocking the box together. They then become invested in the process and generally offer to help further. While writing my upcoming novel, I was digging for information on a section of the Baltic Sea off of Denmark so I enlisted the help of a history professor in Copenhagen. During our research he came upon an actual “message in a bottle” tossed into the Baltic  Sea during the exact time period I was writing about. It was a momentous and thrilling discovery for both of us. He’s subsequently been involved in my entire research process and I’ve even tucked a nod to him in the story. When I weave my research into the fiction, I include not only the facts but parts of the emotional journey and interactions as well.

Tell me about your newest book and why you wanted to write it.

My third book is set in East Prussia at the end of WWII and tells the story of four teens whose fates intertwine as they board a doomed ship. It’s the largest maritime disaster in history, but quite an unknown story. And of course it’s full of secrets!

Any plans on writing other genres?

I know better than to say “never” but for now I have several historical books that I’m excited to write. But I’m also very interested in short stories. I’ve always got a short story collection by Ron Carlson, Ellen Gilchrist, or Ann Beattie in my bag. And one day I’d love to write a thriller.

Why do you write YA?

I think that books we read during adolescence can have a lasting and profound effect on us. Books I loved as a teen? I still love them today. Want to see me fangirl? Just whisper the words “James Henry Trotter.” I have an original portrait painting of Roald Dahl in my home.  It’s five feet wide. Yep. Want to see me clutch my hand to my heart? Ask me about Ethan Frome. Not what you expected, right? Ethan Frome was my gateway read. At twelve, it introduced me to the bleak and unhappy ending, the type of story I’m now always in search of and desperate to write. It really appealed to the dramatic and innocent teenage me.

Young readers aren’t jaded. They read with an emotional truth that’s very pure. Their feedback is honest and unfiltered.  They keep me grounded and they’re such a grateful audience. I feel so lucky to be writing YA right now. The community is full of incredible artists and writers. Can you imagine being a kid and having Jack Gantos visit your school or Laurie Halse Anderson speak at your commencement? This is a very exciting time and I’m grateful to be part of it.

Find out more about Ruta Sepetys by visiting her website or look for her on Facebook or Twitter.

~Alegria Barclay, currently reading The Faraway Nearby by Rebecca Solnit

Where in the World is the Printz?

Fri, 03/28/2014 - 07:00

Printz Award winning books have been set all over the world. Below is a map showing approximate locations for many of the Printz winners. Can you guess which books are set in the different locations? The answers are below.


*Only one section of the book is set in this location.

Before you look at the answers, think about the books you are reading this year. Any great settings?  If you have read something spectacular, consider suggesting it for the 2015 Printz Award. Take us somewhere wonderful!

Okay, here are the answers:

  1. The First Part Last by Angela Johnson (2004)
  2. The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean (2008)
  3. Looking for Alaska by John Green (2006)
  4. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta (2009)
  5. how i live now by Meg Rosoff (2005)
  6. A Step from Heaven by An Na (2002)
  7. In Darkness by Nick Lake (2013)
  8. Postcards from No Man’s Land by Aidan Chambers(2003)
  9. Going Bovine by Libba Bray (2010)
  10. Kit’s Wilderness by David Almond (2001)
  11. Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley (2012)
  12. American Born Chinese by Gene Luan Yang (2007)

-Diane Colson, currently reading Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith













1. The First Part Last by Angela Johnson (2004)

Tweets of the Week: March 28

Fri, 03/28/2014 - 06:00

As usual, Twitter has been busy this week with YA related news, events, giveaways and more. Here are some of the highlights, in case you missed anything…

Contests and Giveaways

New Releases

News and Events

Just for Fun

- Whitney Etchison, currently reading Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick

What Would They Read?: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Thu, 03/27/2014 - 07:00

For several months now I have been creating recommendation lists for some notable characters for TV.  I’ve been putting this one off, mainly because I am slightly intimidated to take on a Whedonverse show.  So please forgive if I unsuccessfully tackle the pop culture phenomenon, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (BTVS).  Who knows… maybe if I succeed with this one, I’ll try another Joss Whedon masterpiece, Firefly.

In a TV show that centers around so much reading and research mixed with punching and stabbing, creator Joss Whedon does manage to name-drop a few literary titles here and there.  In the “Band Candy” episode, Buffy refers to Willy Loman from the play “Death of a Salesman” by Arthur Miller.  During season five, Buffy encounters the most popular vampire in all literature in the episode “Buffy vs. Dracula.”   I don’t want to jump the gun, but did Buffy actually read Dracula by Bram Stoker?  If not, then I definitely am tossing that title to her.  Honestly, it’s more of a textbook for her than recreational reading, but so what? If these literary examples tell us anything, it’s that obviously Buffy and the Scooby Gang must love books!  So, without further ado, here are some recommendations for our Sunnydale pals!

Buffy Summers – I just want to state for the record that I would never ever give Buffy Twilight by Stephenie Meyer.  While the star-crossed lovers scenario might ring a bit true, I believe that Buffy would never be able to get through a book in which vampires don’t kill you, but rather play baseball and sparkle in the sun.  There has been much speculation about what Buffy would do in Bella Swan’s world, i.e. whether or not she would slay Edward and his family.  Also, as we have seen in several episodes of BTVS, vampires and werewolves aren’t enemies.  Angel and Oz get along just fine, although that aren’t fighting over the same girl.  That being said, I think we could come up with a more suitable reading choice for Buffy.

We have seen Buffy take on a variety of beasties and demons throughout her seven years, however there is one creature that never proved to be much of a threat: the unicorn.  Right away, I would pull the “Killer Unicorns” series by Diana Peterfreund.  This book series, starting with  Rampant, is about an ancient order of female teenaged unicorn hunters who must join together to stop vicious unicorn attacks.  Unlike the random selection of slayers in Buffy’s world, these hunters are descendants from unicorn hunters of the past.  The book is full of training, unbelievable realizations, and forbidden love; all things that Buffy can understand in ways other readers cannot. 

As I stated earlier, while Buffy certainly could relate to a book about vampire love or some other kind of star-crossed romance, I don’t know if that’s exactly what she would like to read.  Often Buffy mentions her desire to be a normal girl and do average things with no knowledge of what goes bump in the night.  It is this craving that leads me to find realistic fiction books for her to read.  Often we like to read things that are used as a form of escapism like dystopian or fantasy novels.  Since Buffy basically lives in a world that normal people would use to escape reality, it makes sense that Buffy would like to read books about real life issues as her way to shut out the darkness she experiences daily.

The first author that comes to mind in this vein is Sarah Dessen.  Dessen has a fantastic way of creating well-rounded characters that leave you wanting to be friends with them in real life.  Specifically, I would give Buffy What Happened to Goodbye (a 2012 Teens’ Top Ten winner).  In this book, McLean has been traveling with her dad, the restaurant consultant, for several years.  Each time this reach a new town, McLean reinvents herself to try on a new personality.  After a while, she doesn’t really remember which traits are real and which were just fabricated.  Buffy would commiserate with the struggle McLean lives as she was forced to leave behind her life and friends when moving to Sunnydale.

Finally, Buffy needs to smile and laugh once in a while.  Strictly for amusement, I would give Buffy 2011 Morris Award finalistHold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride.  Sam’s life may be similar to Buffy’s in that he discovers he is not just a normal guy, but is really a necromancer.  The two also share a fantastic ability to execute flawless cases of witty banter with their friends.  They’ve even both worked in the food industry, also Buffy much more briefly.  This title, the first in a series, will allow Buffy an opportunity to relate to some of Sam’s struggles, but also laugh at the bizarre situations he stumbles upon while trying to come to terms with his powers.

I didn’t intend to fill this whole entry with just Buffy recommendations, but apparently that’s what happened.  That being said, keep your eyes open next month for a continuation of book recommendations for more characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

-Brandi Smits, currently reading Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

Jukebooks: Half Bad by Sally Green

Wed, 03/26/2014 - 07:00

In an alternative United Kingdom, White witches practice good magic, while reviled Black witches are judged as evil. Nathan is being raised by his maternal grandmother along with his half-siblings, all White witches. Nathan has a different father than the rest of the brood, however. Nathan was conceived in a presumably brutal coupling between their White witch mother and the notorious Black witch, Marcus. He is half White, then, and half Black.

As Nathan grows, it becomes clear that he has Black tendencies: he cannot bear to sleep indoors, he is prone to swift bouts of fury, and he can heal himself miraculously. But Nathan also has his gentle side, and is capable of loyalty and love. And he wonders, why does he have to be White or Black? Why can’t he just be as he is?

The lyrics to the song Demons by Imagination Dragons remind me of Nathan:

When you feel my heat /Look into my eyes
It’s where my demons hide / It’s where my demons hide
Don’t get too close / It’s dark inside
It’s where my demons hide / It’s where my demons hide

-Diane Colson, currently reading an advance reader’s copy of Uncaged by John Sandford & Michelle Cook

From Page to Screen: Divergent

Tue, 03/25/2014 - 07:00

The film adaptation of the first book in Veronica Roth’s bestselling and Teens’ Top Ten winning Divergent trilogy has been widely hyped over the past couple of weeks. The Internet at large has been chattering for weeks now about Divergent stars Shailene Woodley and Theo James and what is sure to be their blockbuster, star creating roles. If you want to play a fun game, then you should YouTube all recent interviews with the actors and see how long it takes the interviewer to ask them about accepting a role in such a huge movie. It seems fairly odd, given the movie hadn’t been released until this past Friday, so unless they were fortune tellers, there was no real way to know whether or not this movie would succeed critically or financially.

Sure, Divergent is a best-selling series, but then again so was City of Bones, Percy Jackson, Vampire Academy and– well, you see where I’m going with this… None of these films were able to capitalize on their source materials success, so how is that Divergent was seen as a forgone conclusion before the film hit theaters? Does it have something to do with the constant comparison to The Hunger Games? Or maybe it has something to do with the enigmatic Shailene Woodley who is apparently the YA book to film “It” girl right now?

I’m wondering about all of the above, because in all seriousness, I really liked the film adaptation of Divergent. As a book and film nerd, this movie is a pretty solid B+ adaptation with a grade A for acting. There is a definite reason Shailene Woodley is the new “it” girl for these films, and she showcases her talents well in Divergent. My filmgirl nerdiness usually means that I understand critics response to movies, which is why the 40% rotten rating from Rotten Tomatoes or this film is pretty baffling to me. It seems a pretty weird trajectory for a movie that has had such non-stop hype and one where the movie is actually a good movie. To be honest, the critical response to Divergent has me wondering if critics are having some YA book-to-movie fatigue. This movie is definitely as good as the first Hunger Games film, which had an 84% rating on Rotten Tomatoes when it was first released. 

Thankfully all of this critical panning  didn’t stop Divergent from achieving commercial success as it topped off the box office this weekend earning $56 million dollars. This top spot at the box office hopefully will solidify the rest of the trilogy’s book to screen adaptations, but the critical response still bothers me. It bothers me, because it may stop others who haven’t read the books from seeing the film. Part of the reason films like The Hunger Games and Twilight have been so successful is because they reached these non readers. Owen Gleiberman wrote an excellent article that talks about this possible YA fatigue for Entertainment Weekly  this weekend essentially asking if Divergent is getting unfairly trashed for coming after The Hunger Games. If you are a fan of these books, or films like The Hunger Games, please bypass these critics and go see the movie. I think you will really enjoy it!

As a fan of the book, there were some problematic elements to the film’s adaptation. The filmmakers glossed over a lot of the darkness that occurs during the Dauntless initiation, which has the effect of really taking away from the relationships Tris forges with Christina, Will, and Al. The supporting characters seem to lose a lot of their character development during the Dauntless initiation stage of the movie. Shailene Woodley and Theo James are perfect as Tris and Four which kind of makes up for the fact that our supporting characters lose out a bit in this first movie. The pair has the necessary chemistry to drive the film and Woodley has the skills to pull off all the elements of this popular heroine.

The movie doesn’t do the best job making the viewer feel how brutal the Dauntless initiation was. The film takes out a lot of the darker elements of Roth’s story (no eye stabbing here). The other issue is that Peter is pretty much reduced to bully status, which makes one particular scene with Tris and some other initiates seem more bizarre then anything else. All of this might be to try and keep the film’s rating to a PG-13, which is understandable but still kind of unfortunate as a fan of the book. The filmmakers also tweaked some of the ending a little bit, probably to incorporate Kate Winslet some more. This honestly didn’t bother me as much as the rest above. It was an interesting change to have Jeanine in the control room with Tobias. It was more intriguing though then bothersome and, ultimately, the story still ended in the way.

Overall, this is a really good first film to the Divergent series.  I would definitely recommend Divergent to fans of the book as well as moviegoers looking for an escapist dystopian flick.

What about you readers, did you like the new Divergent movie? Were you nervous about seeing the film after reading some of those reviews? Are you worried that some film critics are getting YA fatigue?

Divergent Fun Facts:

  • Ansel Elgort who plays Caleb Prior in Divergent will play Shailene Woodley’s love interest in the film version of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars.
  • Miles Teller who plays Peter in Divergent played Shailene Woodley’s love interest in The Spectacular Now.

-Katie Shanahan Yu, currently reading The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Portrait of The Artist As a Young Adult: Celebrating Youth Art Month in YA Lit

Mon, 03/24/2014 - 07:00

A variety of scientific studies have proposed that scent is a powerful trigger for memory, and for me, that has certainly been true.  Cinnamon and ginger will always kindle the warm anticipation associated with my family’s Christmas cookie baking. Similarly, there’s a particular combination of musky hairspray, sweat, & dust that immediately brings back the nerves and adrenaline of theatrical performances.  And finally, the smell of fresh drawing paper, pencil shavings, and paint fumes will always be thrilling and soothing for me.  Why?  Because those scents symbolize a key aspect of my adolescent identity: being an artist.

By high school, art was embedded into my daily life.  I took classes at school and at a local art studio, where I also worked as a teaching assistant for a couple hours every Saturday.  I doodled during play practices and spent hours agonizing over pieces for local shows.  When I drew, my intense focus could be alternatively relaxing, exciting, or frustrating–especially if the piece wasn’t working out.  However, it was always a transporting experience–a time to escape my life and be more present in myself.

Accordingly, I’m always keen to find stories that explore and celebrate the varied roles of visual art in the lives of young adults.   And as March is Youth Art Month, it seems like the perfect time to share some novels featuring young artists.

Page by Paige - Laura Lee Gulledge (2012 Great Graphic Novels for Teens)  When her family moves from Virginia to Brooklyn, Paige’s only friend and solace is her trusty sketchbook.  Through her drawings, Paige can be her adventurous, clever artist self– but taking that identity into the big, overwhelming world is a whole different story.  Spanning her first eight months in New York, Paige’s journey of new friendships, tentative romance, and growing artistic confidence unfurls through imaginative & organic images. 

Graffiti Moon - Cath Crowley (2013 Best Fiction for Young AdultsSenior year is finally over and Lucy can think of no better way to celebrate than to track down Shadow, the mysterious and talented graffiti artist whose gorgeous walls inspire and intrigue her.  Lucy just knows that she and someone who paints like Shadow could have a real connection.  She definitely doesn’t want to waste the night with Ed, the quiet guy with whom she shared the most awkward first date in history in a few years ago.  But over the course of one night wandering through the city in search of Shadow, Lucy and Ed discover an unexpected network of secrets, memory, art, passion, and fear pulling them together.

The Disenchantments - Nina LaCour (2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults)  It’s the summer after high school and anything feels possible.  Colby and his best friend Bev are finally fulfilling their pact to hit the road after graduation: first, on a rambling, low budget tour with Bev’s passionate (if somewhat untalented) band The Disenchantments and then, onto Europe for a year of art, travel, and freedom.  But mere hours into the trip, Bev drops a bombshell: she’s decided to abandon their plans and go to art school.  Now, in between gigs in dingy basements and long hours in his uncle’s beloved VW van, Colby must figure out what’s next–for his post-high school life, for his fraught relationship with Bev, and for his own artistic identity.

The Summer Prince - Alaya Dawn Johnson Four hundred years after nuclear war devastated the earth and a plague nearly decimated the male population, the isolated pyramid city of Palmares Tres thrives atop the ruins of Brazil.  Sixteen-year-old artist June and her best friend Gil thrill as the Queen selects her newest Summer King—her male consort until the year’s end when he will be sacrificed to ensure the city’s prosperity and confirm her rule.  Charismatic Enki, however, turns out to be much more than the traditional temporary celebrity.  June becomes his secret collaborator in a series of provocative public art projects—and watches helplessly as he and Gil fall in love.  June’s rebellious art finally finds a focus as Enki shows her the dark underside of their shining city.

Between Shades of Gray – Ruta Sepetys (2012 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults; 2014 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults; 2012 Morris Award FinalistOn June 14th, 1941, strangers knocked on the door of her family’s house–and changed Lina’s life forever.  Like many Lithuanian citizens, Lina and her family were arrested and exiled to forced labor camps in Siberia by Stalin’s invading soldiers. Through starvation, cold, exhaustion, fear, and disease, Lina uses her artistic abilities to cope, drawing out scenes from her experiences with her mother and little brother to pass through fellow prisoners in hope of sending a message to her father in another camp.  Through her drawings, Lina maintains her identity–while leveraging her artistic skills to work for her freedom.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian - Sherman Alexie (2008 Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults; 2010 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults)  Junior is a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to get his chance at a life beyond the rez, Junior transfers to an all-white high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.  While he slowly finds some kind of place at his new school, his old friends view him as a traitor.  Meanwhile, his family faces the challenges of alcoholism, depression, poverty, and tragic loss. With humor and heartbreaking honesty, Junior attempts to navigate life between two very different worlds.

Speak – Laurie Halse Anderson (2000 Best Books for Young Adults; 2000 Printz Honor Book; 2000 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers)  High school is an unforgiving hierarchy and it’s incredibly easy to end up at the bottom.  The police broke up a big summer party and everyone knows that freshman Melinda Sordino made the call that got them busted.  But only Melinda knows why she called 911—and, unable to talk about that night, she’s pretty much stopped speaking since.  As Melinda regains her voice and seeks justice for the painful events of the summer, she finds unexpected strength and healing in her art class.

-Kelly Dickinson, currently reading Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride & Rapture Practice by Aaron Hartzler

The Monday Poll: Spring Sequels

Mon, 03/24/2014 - 00:10

photo by flickr user CCAC

Good morning, Hub readers! Last week, we asked you to choose your favorite female character in YA historical fiction, in honor of Women’s History Month. Elizabeth Wein’s “Verity” and Maddie from Code Name Verity made a sensational team and nabbed the #1 spot with 36% of your vote, followed by Liesel Meminger from Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief with 23%. Cecily and Gwenhwyfar from The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats were also a popular choice, with 19% 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 March isn’t over yet– keep celebrating women’s history!

This week, we want to know which spring sequel you’re most looking forward to reading in the coming months. There’s a lot to look forward to, so tote in the poll below or add your choice in the comments if we left out a good one.

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 #7

Sun, 03/23/2014 - 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!

Hey readers! How is the challenge going for you? Are you reading more because it’s finally spring? Or because of the longer days? It’s been spring here since about January so I am already over the warmish temperatures.

Has anyone finished the challenge?  What’s your favorite book so far? Find any gems that are outside your comfort zone?  Tell me!  If you haven’t finished or even signed up yet, don’t worry! You still have plenty of time. The challenge ends on June 22.

As I said before, I’m not participating in the challenge this year, but I am still following along on social media by checking the Goodreads 2014 Hub Challenge Group and  the #hubchallenge hashtag. We’ve collected some tweets from your fellow participants– join the conversation if you haven’t already!

[View the story "The 2014 #hubchallenge" on Storify]

Keep reading, and remember, you have plenty of time to get through this challenge; it ends at 11:59PM EST on June 22nd. Please keep reading and tracking your progress and check back here each Sunday to let us know how you are doing and to see how other folks are doing.

If you are 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, to 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 25 titles.