October is an exciting month for any YA lit fan, because it includes Teen Read Week! In honor of this annual celebration of young adult literature, YALSA invited book-loving teens all over the world to apply to share their enthusiasm for reading in a guest post for The Hub. Thirty-one talented young writers were chosen, and we’ll be featuring posts from these unique voices all month long. Here’s Dessi Gomez from California.
Movie soundtracks can potentially make or break a movie. It’s great when they complement the movie, and they are even more poignant when they connect to the book off of which the movie is based. I compared the soundtracks of three popular books that have been recently transformed into movies: The Giver by Lois Lowry, If I Stay by Gayle Forman, and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. These soundtracks chosen to help tell each of these stories have different tones that create unique vibes for each and every reader and viewer. The Giver is suspenseful and liberating. If I Stay is indie and quietly heartbreaking. The Fault in Our Stars is modern and mainstream. I wanted to talk about four songs from each soundtrack that I personally think really topped off the movie. [Note: time stamps for specific lyrical references are given at the end of some descriptions.]The Fault in Our Stars
- “All of These Stars” by Ed Sheeran
This song does a fine job of closing up the movie as the credits song. I thought of the title of the story when I heard the words, “I saw a shooting star and I thought of you.” Many of the songs in the soundtrack contain references to the stars. The lyric “I can see the stars from America/Amsterdam” connects the two countries in which Hazel and Augustus spend time together. The combination of “the way our horizons meet” and “skyline splits in two” speaks of how Hazel and Augustus are meant to be together, but are cruelly torn apart. “I looked across and fell in love” reminds me of how Augustus couldn’t take his eyes off of Hazel once he saw her in support group. [Times: beginning-1:37; 2:17-2:35; 3:15 to end]
- “All I Want” by Kodaline
After thinking about, “you brought out the best in me, a part of me I’ve never seen,” I realized that it definitely sums up how Augustus lit up Hazel’s life and made her so happy. I wholeheartedly agree with the line, “Our love was made for movie screens.” [Time: 2:02-2:27]
- “Not About Angels” by Birdy
This song epitomizes Hazel’s sadness. The vocals and piano pack a pining punch of fresh heartache. The following line really relates to how Hazel feels when Augustus tells her that his cancer is back: “How unfair it’s just our luck. Found something real that’s out of touch.” The fact that “it’s not about angels” relates to Augustus’ fear of oblivion and to Hazel’s doubt in what Augustus’ parents call encouragements.
- “Best Shot” by Birdy and Jaymes Young
This melody reflects Augustus’ omnipresence, even after he dies. He will always be there for Hazel. “Stars fall from above, and you’re barely holding on my love” contains another allusion to stars and to Gus’ unwavering loyalty. It is a hopeful duet between a couple, both saying to each other, “I’ll be here givin’ it my best shot, cryin’ from the rooftops, nothing can stop us if we believe.”
- “Ordinary Human” by One Republic
Another spectacular credits song, “Ordinary Human,” reflects Jonas’ new awareness of the world that he is living without.
“Today I took a walk in the clouds, used to keep my eyes wide shut but now I’m looking down” reflects how Jonas’ eyes have been opened to a whole bunch of new ideas. He “used to be a shadow, now the shadows scream [his] name” describes how he wasn’t very important before he was named Receiver of Memory, but now that he is, every secret tugs at him, compelling him to discover. “In the daylight I could swear, we’re the same” illustrates Jonas’ close bond to The Giver as well as the principle of Sameness that governs the community. I immediately thought of Jonas’ trek to the boundary of Elsewhere and his goal to heal the community when I heard the words, “There’ll be peace in the city tonight, and when I’m gone, I hope that you/they get it right.”
- “One Minute More” by Capital Cities
“Don’t wait for an invitation, no need for a reservation” sounds like Jonas trying to convince his friends to break the strict rules. “You gotta see what I see in you” fits with Jonas’ attraction to Fiona, which was emphasized more in the movie than in the book; it also reflects when he tries to show his friends the colors. “Just think of a destination, I’ll be your transportation. We’ll find there’s a kind of place that can only be seen with the naked mind” sounds exactly like something the Giver would say to Jonas in preparation for a reception of memory. More emphasis is placed on the fact that, despite the Giver and Jonas being two individuals, they work well together as a team by the words, “unleash your imagination, two stars one constellation.”
- “Silent” by Tori Kelly
Silent is a very strong song when it comes to tying in with The Giver. “No more black and white, this life’s too colorful” definitely reflects how Jonas begins to see the colors. “Same faces around me with the same point of view: everything is perfect and everything’s ok, just swallow their lies and let your emotions fade” perfectly describes how Jonas feels when he is surrounded by other members of the community as well as how they behave. Jonas’ realization that he needs to go past the boundary to Elsewhere is evident in the lines, “gotta go gotta get out of this town, nothin’ left for me here, can’t stick around” and “got my own opinion my own words to say, got my own vision so I know I can’t stay”. He knows deep down that, “[He’s] not meant to be silent.” [Time: beginning to 1:27]
- “Whole” by Rixton
“We’re/you’re tryin’ to take two halves and make them whole” is a sort of double entendre. It speaks of the committee and Chief Elder’s effort to make the community work, but by taking away freedom of choice and feelings and replacing them with obedience in order to help it run smoothly. This in turn is combined with Sameness, a form of Communism, and yes the community functions like a well-oiled machine (except for the occasional release), however it is missing something, therefore it is not whole. The other meaning is the attempt by the Giver and Jonas to replenish the community and fill the gap. “When you wake up, and you find that I’m not there, cry for me. Put on your make-up, and just let down your hair, don’t lose sleep” puts Jonas’ thoughts of leaving his “family unit” and friends for Elsewhere into words. It is basically saying: yes, miss me, but don’t worry.
If I Stay
- “Promise” by Ben Howard
The lyrics, “Meet me there, under the flowers, we’ll wait through the hours of cold winter,” contain a promise in itself. I love the scene in the movie that this song outlines. “Tearin’ down doors of time” reminds me of how Adam and Mia wouldn’t see each other for long periods of time during their relationship. This song reflects the roughness and rockiness of the relationship with “promise me this, you’ll wait for me only scared of the lonely arms.” They want to stay loyal to each other. I love the crescendo and touch of cello after “and maybe, I’ll come home” as well as the “who am I darlin’ to/for ya?” lyric. This song is a quiet plea from both sides for the relationship to last. [Time: 0:31-0:58; 1:35-1:45; 2:25-3:40]
- “I Will Be There” by Odessa
To me, this song is ultimately about loyalty and steadfastness, qualities that Mia, Adam, and Kim all possess. The following lyrics point this out for me: “If you ever need someone, to cry to/ to hold you/ to just love you/ to simply adore you, I will be there, standin’ by your side” and “mountains to the sea, in every city, from the valleys to the moon, in every country” reminds me of nature in Oregon.
- “Today” by Williamette Stone
I love love love this collaboration between Mia, Adam, and Mia’s family. The simplicity and hominess and togetherness help make the song what it is. The guitar, banjo, and cello sound so harmonious together. Ultimately, I love it because it shows Mia that she really does belong in her family; it dissolves her doubts.
- “Heal” by Tom Odell
This is another perfect credits song because it is saying to heal and move on and let go and that is exactly what Mia needs to do. I love the soothing vibe and similes that Odell uses. “Take my mind and take my pain, like an empty bottle takes the rain” (bottle it up and save it for another day), “take my past and take my sins, like an empty sail takes the wind” (sail on, start a new journey), and “take my heart and take my hands, like an ocean takes the dirty sands” (cleanse). These all contain some reference to water, which flows continuously and pushes through no matter what is in its way. This is what Mia needs to do. [Time: beginning to 2:00]
Music plays an important role in movies. It can be a true asset to the film by embodying the occurrences and feelings of the story, or it can distract by disagreeing with the plot, which leaves viewers confused and unsatisfied. These soundtracks served as the icing on the cake and the cherry on top for this trio of popular films.
Hi everyone! My name is Dessi Gomez. I live in California, and I am a sophomore at Santa Margarita Catholic High School. I also play soccer and participate in MUN. My hobbies include writing, going to the beach, and watching movies…when I’m not reading, that is. I love to listen to music, especially Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran. As of right now, my favorite book genres are Young Adult and Contemporary. I was so excited and grateful to be chosen as a guest blogger for The Hub and have enjoyed being part of the team. Hope you like my post!
I’m a pretty big (although admittedly fairly recent) Doctor Who fan. My TARDIS “Bigger on the Inside” poster has pride of place by my desk at work and my Christmas tree will boast a Dalek and a sonic screwdriver. But some of the dialogue flies past me on the first viewing of each episode (perhaps the phrase “first viewing” gives a fuller sense of my devotion to the show).
I love that the writing is so fast and furious that I have to work to keep up, and I love being able to uncover new jokes and references when I watch again. And one of my very favorite things is when the Doctor makes a literary joke (or, better still, has an entire episode crafted around a literary reference). I mean, come on, how disappointing would it be to have a Timelord with all of time and space at his disposal who wasn’t really, really well read?!
So: what to read to get the Doctor’s best literary jokes so far? Here’s a list to start with:
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens - Doctor Who is a British icon and so is Dickens. Doctor Who Christmas specials have become a bit of a recent holiday tradition (at least in my house), and Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is arguably the best-known British holiday story ever; Dickens and the Doctor are a great match, and the show has done both a straight-up Whovian adaptation (titled, helpfully, “A Christmas Carol”), and an episode featuring Charles Dickens, “The Unquiet Dead.” Of the two, I prefer the latter, because the writing is rife with moments where we get to witness the Doctor and Rose influencing future classic literature while also imagining what Dickens might have been like in person. Plus, I like the 9th Doctor a lot.
Shakespeare (all of it) - The episode written to make lit geeks giggle, “The Shakespeare Code” is so chock-full of great quips and allusions to the Bard’s work I’m still finding new jokes a few years later. Start with the sonnets, then work through the comedies (but make sure to hit Hamlet as well). Extra fun = watching the Doctor coin some of Shakespeare’s most famous lines.
Anything by Agatha Christie - The Tenth Doctor (ahem. my personal favorite Doctor) and Donna spend an entire episode in a house party whodunit that unfolds as a glorious tribute to Christie’s bestselling mysteries (the bestselling novelist of all time, the Doctor informs us in a later episode. We’ll have to take his word for it!), while also starring Agatha as a guest at the weekend retreat. The episode is built around the real-life, 10-day disappearance of Christie, which makes for many layers of mystery (but fret not; Whovian hijinks like enormous alien insects are also still present. In case you were worried).
Sherlock Holmes - Matt Smith put in an awesome appearance as the world’s most famous detective in the 2012 Christmas special, and his Doctor-as-Holmes was all the more hilarious with a solid foundation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous character’s many quirks and idiosyncrasies, which have been interpreted by many fine actors, but which originated on the page. This episode added an additional layer of in-the-know jokes because Stephen Moffat, Doctor Who’s then (and current) showrunner, also runs the BBC’s latest Holmes adaptation, Sherlock.
Are you sensing a theme here? Bestselling British lit is what you should probably be reading to get all the layers of Doctor Who dialogue.
A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams - Did you know that Douglas Adams wrote and edited for Doctor Who back in the 70’s? He was actually working for the show while he wrote A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy; superfans looking for other works with a similar tone would do well to try this beloved modern classic.
Anything by Neil Gaiman - Did you further know that the magical Neil Gaiman wrote “The Doctor’s Wife”, from season six? Gaiman is also a longtime fan of the show, and just yesterday made a very pointed comment via tumblr about Who’s complete lack of female writers (none since 2008, which is, come on Moffat, extremely ridiculous).
Harry Potter (I’m not specifying a title because I think we can all agree it’s best to revisit all seven books with some frequency to help keep Nargles at bay) - Let’s not forget “Good old J.K.” as the Doctor fondly refers to Rowling; given his Timelord credentials, the Doctor got to preview the end of the series way before anyone else on Earth, and a well-timed “Expelliarmus” spell has been known to save the Doctor’s day.
Bonus book-themed viewing: “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead,” season five - Two of my favorite Doctor Who episodes ever, and they take place in a fantastical (and frankly terrifying) library. Not to be watched alone, or if getting locked in a library is on your upcoming agenda.
This is really just a start to some literary giants who have received the Doctor Who treatment. Are you a Doctor Who fan? Do you have a favorite literary allusion from the show? Reading suggestions for fellow Whovians? Let me know in the comments!
-Carly Pansulla, currently reading Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
The original request
Does anyone have some suggestions of teen lit by foreign authors? I’m looking for modern authors, with less emphasis on European countries (although, I would still like to hear your European suggestions if you really like the book). Trying to build some diversity here!
- Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
- Ruby Red trilogy by Kerstin Gier
- Why We Took the Car by Wolfgang Herrndorf
- Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai
- The Storyteller by Antonia Michaelis
- Keeping Corner by Kashmira Sheth
- Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey
- Randa Abdel-Fattah
- Laura Buzo
- Cath Crowley
- Tellulah Darling
- Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
- John Flanaghan
- Karen Foxlee
- Karen Healey
- Margo Lanagan
- Derek Landy
- Melina Marchetta
- Juliet Marillier
- Neesha Meminger
- Miyuki Miyabe
- Jaclyn Moriarty
- Garth Nix
- Nnedi Okorafor
- Mitali Perkins
- Shyam Selvadurai
- Kashmira Sheth
- Padma Venkatraman
- Markus Zusak
Additional suggested resources
Have more titles you think should belong on these lists? Add them on the YALSA wiki or leave a comment! Looking for more compiled booklists? Check out the YALSA wiki or other booklists here at The Hub.
– Gretchen Kolderup, currently reading The Glass Sentence by S.E. Grove
Check out previous interviews in the One Thing Leads to Another series here.
My mind is still reeling from Grasshopper Jungle (which I read weeks and weeks ago…will its hold on me ever wane I wonder?) so I want to take a moment to talk about some of the disparate thoughts that have connected themselves in my head.
When I think about Andrew Smith, I think about the guys who hung out in the library at the private Catholic school where I was librarian before my daughter was born: my TA, the members of the anime club, the boys who ate lunch in my office and talked about books and video games with me. I wish so much that I had been able to give them Winger or The Marbury Lens or 100 Sideways Miles then, at that time, because those books…they would have loved those books. (Luckily, social media keeps us all in touch and it doesn’t matter that they’re all in college now because they’re awesome and we still talk about books.) I think about my friend Walter and how I pushed other books aside to read Grasshopper Jungle because he raved about it and because I trust his judgement implicitly, and how his wise comments about books offer more than just literary insight, and how he gave me by far the best parenting advice I ever received. Thinking about my daughter and Walter’s advice and my hopes for her future brings to mind a man, someone connected to the school, who changed the course of my life, and how much I wish I could sit him down with Grasshopper Jungle and A.S. King’s Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future, and ask him to reevaluate. That’s another connection; I read those two books back to back and they are inextricably linked in my brain now and I doubt I’ll ever recover (at least I hope not!)
And more than anything, thinking about Andrew Smith and his books–all his books–makes me think about my brother, who grew up with seven sisters, and our fascinating, infuriating, wonderful, complicated conversations about representation and cultural expectations. My brother is so awesome. And you know what else is awesome? That a book about identity and history and connections and giant insects who eat people’s heads can tease out so many essential connections, creating a through-line that feels genuine and illuminating to me. And that’s just one book.
Thank you so much Andrew, for writing honest books and giving honest answers. Reading them was (and is) a very good idea.Always Something There to Remind Me
Please describe your teenage self.
As a teen, I was pretty much a loner. I had a few close friends, I suppose, but being so much younger than my classmates in high school was a social obstacle that was difficult to overcome. I read a lot, but came into reading later in high school. And I wrote all the time.
What did you want to be when you grew up? Why?
I knew I wanted to be a writer, but I still don’t know if I can say why. It was just something that I felt like I had to do. Jobs and employment—a means of simply making money—never really mattered to me at all, and I never once thought I would make a job out of writing until I was challenged by a friend into giving it a go.
What were your high school years like?
I attended high school in Southern California. I also played soccer when I was in high school (don’t hold that against me). I will say that I don’t really have any significant or inspiring adult influences in my background, but one time when I wrote a short story for an English teacher, she gave me an F on it because she said there was no way that a kid my age could ever write a story like that, so, therefore it must have been plagiarized. That made an impact on me. Also, I still remember the story. Oh boy! It was terrible!
What were some of your passions during that time?
Well, like I said, I played soccer and tennis when I was in high school. I also did track and field one year for my father, who was a track coach. I hated track. My dad forced me to do it. I had a brother who was quite older than I was, so I grew up listening to bands like the Who, Beatles, Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, and the Doors. And, as far as reading tastes went, when I had money to spend on books, I would buy the thickest paperbacks I could get my hands on because I wanted to get as many pages for my money as possible. So I actually did read Moby Dick, and books like Jude the Obscure and The Idiot when I was a teen.
Would you be willing to share a difficult teen experience or challenge that you feel shaped the adult you became?
Terrible things happened to me when I was a teen. Nobody wants to hear about that stuff.
What about a positive experience or accomplishment that had an impact on your adult self?
One year I received Honorable Mention in the Scholastic Writing Awards competition for a one-act play I wrote. It was in blank verse. Oh boy! It was terrible!
What advice, if any, would you give your teen self? Would your teen self have listened?
My teen self has told me to never talk to him, and I’m fine with that.
Do you have any regrets about your teen years? Anything left undone or anything that might have been better left undone?
It was a lot easier to get into significant amounts of trouble when I was a teen as compared to today’s teens. I believe my generation—the generation that gave us ozone depletion—also used up just about the entire world’s supply of fun. Sorry kids. I take full responsibility for everything.
What, if anything, do you miss most about that time?
Oh good lord, nothing. Are you kidding me? I’m a grown up. Seriously, what sane grownup would ever miss that?Every Day I Write the Book
I think it’s fair to say that many of your books end in ways that defy reader expectations, that turn the story on its head, provide a new perspective, or are unexpected in a myriad of other ways. After your first novel Ghost Medicine was published you said you’d written a “few different endings …but one of them was so difficult…that I just couldn’t do it, and had to make the ending happier.” What about your other books? Are there alternate endings to the Marbury books, Winger, Grasshopper Jungle, or 100 Sideways Miles floating around in your brain? Do you generally know the end of the story in advance or do you write to find out? How do you decide which ending is “right” for that particular book?
The endings of my books usually make me aware they’ve arrived, as opposed to me working them out. So, with the exception of Ghost Medicine (and I haven’t thought about that other—even more devastating—ending in a long time), I would have to say that all of my other books kind of wrote themselves to their conclusions. I often don’t know where they will take me. But I will admit that I really wanted there to be real cannibal alien angels in 100 Sideways Miles. I’ve always been fascinated with cannibalism. Go figure.
Can we talk about boys? One of the few elements all your books have in common is a male character who struggles with the labels and expectations of family, peers, and society. You’ve noted that “the pressure we put on our sons” to “fit perfectly into the constraints of society’s ‘boy box’” is immense, and causes immeasurable harm, and you’ve also said that you found many of the books your son was exposed to lacking in their depiction of “REAL boys…who have to deal with difficulties, who make mistakes, and who sometimes fail…” Could you talk a little about how expectations can damage young men, and about the repercussions of that damage? Do you think this particular literary shortcoming fits into the broader, ongoing discussion of the need for diversity in YA?
I think that boys frequently repress themselves because of all the pressure put on them to conform to a standardized definition of what boys should be. Boys have been told an awful lot of things about what they should be—like non-readers, for example, or readers of only certain types of books—and when I see a boy reading one of Marie Lu’s novels, or Gayle Forman’s (and believe me, I have), and I talk to them about those books, I often see this tremendous sense of relief come over them that 1) I think it’s cool they’re reading, and 2) I’m not going to genderize their tastes. As far as diversity is concerned, yes, I do hope we all appreciate that the idea of diversity is all-inclusive and that the push to diversify books is very valuable. On the other hand, honest diversification requires honest and knowledgeable handling of some very critical details in order to avoid tokenism or stereotyping. In other words, there are some things I don’t think I can honestly write about without coming off as forced or ignorant, and I’d be very afraid of offending any subgroup in our society, with the possible exception of book banners.
“Everything is connected,” you’ve said, “our past to our present, urinal factories and Catholic saints, war and sexual confusion,” and you’ve noted that all your books have an “overriding theme of how things connect to each other,” despite their obvious differences. Would you be willing to connect the dots for us between you, your writing, your audience, and the change you think could happen if people were truly conscious of the myriad ways in which everything connects?
First of all, let me address the issue of me, my writing, and my audience. That’s an easy connection because where one ends and the others begin are really indistinct. When I write, I don’t imagine an audience because I write to please myself as a reader. That’s not to discount my readership, but I think there’s a vast difference between “audience” and “readership.” My readership happens to enjoy, I suppose, the same stuff my audience—which is ME—does. Can you hear me clapping for myself? Well, you’re hallucinating, then, and you might want to get that checked. Now, when people start becoming more sensitive to the interconnectedness of everything, I suppose we’ll stop doing such abhorrent things like waging wars that kill our children and destroying our environment, and so on.
“To avoid any component of the human experience in literature which examines essential adolescent reality is to shortchange readers and weaken oneself as a writer,” you’ve said, though at the same time you’ve described how devastated you were by charges that your writing was inappropriate for young people. “I take those kinds of things really, really personally. It made me sick, as a matter of fact.” Your unflinching examination of the adolescent experience conveys an understanding, respect, and acceptance that I think teens often find in short supply. Could you talk about the importance of honesty when it comes to writing for (or working with) teens, why authentic representation is critical, and why “there’s nothing wrong with you” is such a powerful and important message?
I have a couple things to say about this. First of all, I’m often asked (and it’s always a question coming from boys) if I feel uncomfortable or embarrassed writing about the things that I write about. And I always tell them no, and if there’s anything they want to talk about or ask me about, let’s talk. I’m not afraid of the words. The other thing I’d like to say (because I think this may be where you’re going) is that I think you can’t possibly have an honest portrayal of male adolescence that doesn’t include the significant current of sexuality. Sorry, it can’t be done unless you’re writing about non-human, inanimate, asexual males. And I know kids who define themselves as asexual, but that designation in itself says something about sexuality. So I like to examine that compelling force in all the various directions it can pull or push my characters.Just Can’t Get Enough
Question from James Dashner: Something that’s really, really great about your books so far is that they feel so distinct from each other. No one will ever peg you as a certain type of storyteller. That’s not easy. Is that just natural or is there a distinct, concerted effort to make that happen? Let us in on your secret!
I think this is both natural and something of a concerted effort on my part, James. It’s natural because I am easily bored, and turned of by regurgitations of the flavor of the moment, so I force myself to write about things that are different from anything else I know or have done. And yes, it is definitely not easy.
Andrew has contributed a question for the next author in the series, Garth Nix. Watch for an interview with him coming soon!
Andrew Smith is the award-winning author of several Young Adult novels, including the critically acclaimed Winger (Starred reviews in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Booklist, and Shelf Awareness—an Amazon “Best of the Year,” and a 2014 ALA Top 10 Best Fiction for Young Adults) and The Marbury Lens (a 2011 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults, and Starred reviews and Best of the Year in both Publishers Weekly and Booklist). He is a native-born Californian who spent most of his formative years traveling the world. His university studies focused on Political Science, Journalism, and Literature. He has published numerous short stories and articles. Grasshopper Jungle, a starred novel by Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, and Shelf Awareness, is his seventh novel. 100 Sideways Miles, his eighth, was named a 2014 finalist for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature and has received Starred reviews from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and School Library Journal. The Alex Crow (March 2015) is forthcoming. He lives in Southern California.A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny
October is an exciting month for any YA lit fan, because it includes Teen Read Week! In honor of this annual celebration of young adult literature, YALSA invited book-loving teens all over the world to apply to share their enthusiasm for reading in a guest post for The Hub. Thirty-one talented young writers were chosen, and we’ll be featuring posts from these unique voices all month long. Here’s Ryan Goodlett from Kentucky.
Do you ever look back at your life and remember it in segments defined by the relationship you were in at that time? For me, it would be like “the Hayden* phase” or “the Elliott phase” and then “pre-Weston” and now currently “the Weston phase.” (Although I’m one billion times sure I’m gonna marry this one… we’re going on 10 months strong). This is my longest relationship, and I’ve never felt better. I strut through those cold high school hallways like it’s my red carpet, seeing everything through new eyes. I like to think I am very independent. I’m fine on my own or trying to fix the broken, and I won’t be with someone just because I think it’s “the thing to do.” But I didn’t realize that trying to fix the broken can be very painful; after all, broken things have sharp edges.
I met Weston in the midst of my endeavor to repair, and was already covered in cuts, waist-deep in someone else’s pain. I mean, I’ve read so many books about teenage love, where one character goes to the ends of the Earth for another, but the other character will just never be satisfied, but I could not recognize this in my own life.
Most recently, I witnessed this scenario unfold while curled up with John Green’s Paper Towns, an exhilarating mystery/romance novel which features Quentin Jacobson and Margo Roth Spiegelman of Orlando, Florida. As I tapped into Quentin’s thoughts and feelings about Margo, and learned of all the crazy things she did, I found myself feeling so very sorry for Quentin because it was so obvious that Margo Roth Spiegelman was not quite on the same planet (or at least had a very different view of the planet) as him. Such a simple yet intricate storyline, I could compare this story metaphorically to not only my own, but to the stories of many others I knew. Young love, the loss of love and the search for love are all captured beautifully in this novel, giving readers plenty of reason to both laugh and cry.
So let’s get back to my own personal red carpet… now that I’ve got this beautiful relationship going on, and even though Weston’s gone at college, I strut down that thing like I am the queen bee of Martha Layne Collins High School. I listen to my friends talk about how their boyfriends never want to hang out with them and how they just want to be treated like a princess… and I tilt my head to make sure they can’t see my tiara glittering. My ears were recently treated to a lovely little anecdote from my best friend Hunter… within the course of one week: her first boyfriend ever cheated on her and when she broke up with him, he got back together with his ex girlfriend… who was not the girl he cheated on Hunter with. And of course I bought her a Blizzard, rented The Great Gatsby, offered to TP his house, let her cry on my shoulder and sent a little thank-you note to my sweet Jesus for my sweet Weston… but this situation really got me thinking. Being the quirky, creative, deep-thinking girls that we are, Hunter and I started our own tw0-member book club Freshman year. Some of my favorite memories are of us reading books out loud together and discussing them in lengthy, sometimes revelation-provoking and life-changing conversations.
One of the first books we read was The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephan Chbosky. As I looked at poor Hunter on the night of her awful boyfriend’s hideous exposure, crumpled in my arms with her salt-stained, mascara painted face, I couldn’t help but think back to this novel. Filled with controversial topics and lavish descriptions of drugs and sexual experiences, but emphasizing relationships and loyalty, this book embodies life as not only a high schooler, but as a human being in general. A famous quote from this novel says: “we accept the love we think we deserve.” These words spoke to me in a very deep way when I first read them, and on that night they gave me the courage to remind Hunter that I loved her and that she deserved much, much better.
Both Paper Towns and The Perks of Being a Wallflower are young adult books that are very near and dear to my heart. I wanted to share with you what they mean to me personally and how they relate to my life because if there is anything I am passionate about, it is a well-written story. Life (especially life as a teenager) is rough at times, and novels offer the greatest of sanctuaries from reality. As I met and came to love the characters of Quentin, Ben, Radar and Lacey from Paper Towns and Charlie, Patrick, Sam and Mary Elizabeth from The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I became inspired by the idea that we are not alone in our experiences, but that there is a grand other world of life and love in literature waiting just behind the cover of a young adult novel.
- Ryan Goodlett is a 16 year old Junior from Shelbyville, Kentucky. She is a cheerleader and lacrosse player and she also enjoys theatre, leading worship with her guitar, and writing creatively.
*All names have been changed.
Bailey is under a kind of gag-order regarding fiddle-playing. But she satisfies her need to play by backing up all the fake Johnny Cashes and Dolly Partons that perform around Nashville. Until she meets Sam, who wants something more from her. Sam wants Bailey to join their band, which Bailey cannot do. She sure would like to play and see more of Sam, but Bailey is bound by a secret that keeps her from her own dreams.
With a Jennifer Echols book, you can expect steamy romance… with complications. Such is the nature of Bailey’s relationship with Sam. But they do have a song that’s special to them; Lady Antebellum’s “Dancin’ Away With My Heart.” Here it is below, with a little backstory from the band members.
-Diane Colson, who is currently reading The Aftermath by Jen Alexander
October is an exciting month for any YA lit fan, because it includes Teen Read Week! In honor of this annual celebration of young adult literature, YALSA invited book-loving teens all over the world to apply to share their enthusiasm for reading in a guest post for The Hub. Thirty-one talented young writers were chosen, and we’ll be featuring posts from these unique voices all month long. Here’s Summer Khaleq from California.
Most of us can attest to the fact that the ever-growing Young Adult genre is one of the most boundless and honest genres in modern-day literature. In terms of innovation, YA wins the gold.
Yet despite the ever-expanding horizons of YA, diversity in general seems to be a taboo topic. There aren’t nearly as many books featuring POC, LGBTQ, and/or disabled characters as there should be, with authors taking the safe route and opting for white heterosexual leads.
I’m certainly not the first to notice this, though. Campaigns supporting and advocating for diversity have been popping up all over the internet (such as the popular #WeNeedDiverseBooks Campaign), and if you aren’t familiar with any then you’ve either been a) living under a rock or b) hiding under a rock while reading a book. (Really, isn’t it sad the amount of campaigning that must be done in order to implement something that should be expected in this day in age?)
For those who are new to the movement, I’ve created a nifty little flowchart, since it can be cumbersome to look for potential diverse reads (insert expression of disappointment and irritation here). Even for those who have been following the campaigns for years, there are quite a few lesser-known books here that you should definitely give a try.
The flowchart includes diverse books in YA contemporary fiction. There is a mix of everything from older releases to new releases and books that include people of color, LGBTQ characters, disabled characters, or a mixture of those. Loads of chocolate goes to the authors who were gutsy enough to rebel instead of conform to the accepted standards. Fight the powers! Fight for change! Make a difference! (That is me attempting to be revolutionary.)
- Summer Khaleq is a 16-year-old girl who is secretly a wizard and a pun-wielding warrior but realizes too late that she has revealed her secret. She ironically prefers the wintertime because even her namesake becomes irritable after a while. When not devouring books she likes writing, surfing (the internet), and being a history nerd. She blogs at MissFictional’s World of YA Books.