aka YA Literature

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Wikipedia....my one true love!

Ok, since the ladies are beginning to give me a hard time about not posting, I'm finally breaking down and writing something! (However, since I haven't had the time to read any YA lit...or done any YA programs...or even been able to complete a whole journal article without falling asleep - I'm finding it hard to find something to post about.)

However, when in doubt, I always say turn to your one true love - Wikipedia. I personally LOVE wikipedia. I have it saved as one of my favorite sites and make sure I read their featured articles, "newest article" facts, and picture caption on a daily basis (yes, I know I live a sad, lonely life! LOL) Well, I was delightfully surprised last month when School Library Journal feature a brief article, "Can We Make Peace with Wikipedia?"

The two most satisfying tidbits of information for me were: 1) Wikipedia articles are far more accurate than most librarians give them credit it for....and 2) Wikipedia users are predominately college educated. The article challenged that librarians shouldn't be fighting against wikipedia but instead work with our students to teach them how to better use and judge wikipedia articles! (A point I've long been arguing!)


Monday, July 30, 2007

Countdown to Eclipse

Can I just say how excited I am about the release of Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer? 7 days, 3 hours, 33 minutes (um, Stephenie Meyer has a countdown clock on her website). Sheryl tried to talk me into doing an Eclipse Prom or an Eclipse release party for the teens at the library, but, despite my great love for the Twilight series, I did not have it in me. I put in my notice at the library last week and now I am just trying to make it through the rest of Summer Reading. I am really going to miss being a Young Adult Librarian. Seriously. The job rocks. I get to do fun things like Food Fear Factor and Traveling Pants and Harry Potter Movie Marathon. But, alas, it is time for me to move on. I have secured a position as a high school Reading teacher. I am excited about the new position because I will still be promoting literacy. In fact, I will probably interact with more teens my first day at school than I have during my two year tenure at the library. Plus, how rewarding is it going to be to help kids who can't read good and wanna learn to do other stuff good, too (Zoolander)?! But back to Eclipse...I finally got around to reading the first chapter posted on Stephenie Meyer's website and if the rest of the book is as juicy and tantalizing as the first chapter then we are in for some good reading.

Nerd Roundup

I was thinking I don't have a lot to blog about this week, but then all these nerd-related things have been popping up. The NYT Magazine had a story about "What is a nerd?" I was talking to my coworker about it, and in true nerd fashion, she went to the OED to look up the origin of "nerd." It wasn't too helpful, so that sent me to the Internet, which inevitably took me to Wikipedia. The Wikipedia page had all kinds of interesting info about nerds that kept me entertained for about 15 minutes. For instance, did you know that Spain celebrates Nerd Pride Day?

And what, other than Nerdfighting, does all of this have to do with YA lit? Well, Danica McKellar has a new book for teen girls called Math Doesn't Suck. Do you know/remember who Danica McKellar is? She played Winnie on "The Wonder Years." And she's 32! She's actually older than me! Do teen girls even know who she is? Now, I have not read the book, but I've looked at several descriptions, and I'm torn. On the one hand, I think it's great that she is elevating both the importance of intellect and mathematics for girls.* I like the message that, "Being good at math is cool. And not only that, it can help them get what they want out of life." On the other hand, it seems so cheap and stereotypical. As the Newsweek article asks, "Is it necessary to teach a girl about ratios, for instance, by asking her to figure out how much lip gloss she owns compared with her sister?" And is this even a really realistic or important question? I don't know. I am impressed that McKellar has a theorem named after her(!), and if nothing else, she seems like a good role model.

* On Danica's website, she has a page called "Do You Hide Your Smarts (Especially Around Guys)?" Now, I am wondering how many girls do this. I think I might have done this in middle school some with guys who weren't all that smart. But by the time I was in high school, (a) I was only interested in dating guys who were smart, (b) I was mostly in classes with other students who were smart, and (c) if anything, I was all about coming across as smart as possible and not looking stupid. I remember being very competetive with my guy friends in terms of intellect and grades. I was very satisfied, for example, when I earned the Government AP Medal for highest average and my friend, Jason, got the certificate. Hah! (Of course, I'm single, so maybe this is what I should have been/be doing.)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Giving "Nerdfighters" a Whole New Meaning

Remember when I suggested my brilliant plan for increasing traffic here at ATR with YA authors and their costumes? So, umm, yeah . . . I think I may have been wrong. On second thought, I don't think we should risk an Internet feud. My word.

"A Navy man who got mad when someone mocked him as a 'nerd' over the Internet climbed into his car and drove 1,300 miles from Virginia to Texas to teach the other guy a lesson.

As he made his way toward Texas, Fire Controlman 2nd Class Petty Officer Russell Tavares posted photos online showing the welcome signs at several states' borders, as if to prove to his Internet friends that he meant business.

When he finally arrived, Tavares burned the guy's trailer down."

John and Hank should be careful. Apparently, not everyone likes being called a "nerd."

Sweet Valley High

I must admit that I read Sweet Valley Twins and Sweet Valley High books when I was in middle school. I'm pretty sure if I read them now I would not appreciate them. However, from what little I can remember about them, I think I liked imagining that their lives were what high school would be like. I guess. I actually don't remember too much about Elizabeth and Whatever Her Sister's Name Was, except that they had a little convertible sports car. And they were tan. I think they called it "sun kissed." I do remember that. Well, SVH is back to become vague memories to a whole new generation of middle schoolers! But they will be updated with things like cell phones and instant messaging. I wonder how they will fare against contemporary series like Gossip Girls. Ahh, memories . . .

Graphic Novels

Graphic novels are hugely popular among the teens at my library. As the YA librarian, I try to read the same books my teens are reading, but I have not been able to force myself to read graphic novels. I just don't like pictures with my books for the same reason that I always read the book before watching the movie. I like to form my own visual images of characters and such. Not that I don't appreciate the manga and graphic novel genre. Anything that encourages kids to read is a good thing. I have noticed a lot of popular YA authors are coming out with their own versions of graphic novels. For example, Meg Cabot just released a sequel to her book Avalon High (2007 Lonestar Award winner) and the sequel is in graphic novel form. I really enjoyed Avalon High and was so disappointed when I heard that the sequel was going to be all comic book-y. I guess if I want to keep up with the teens, I need to bite the bullet and start reading some manga.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Traveling Pants

I put on a Traveling Pants program for the teens at my library today. We watched Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants while the girls decorated a pair of jeans they brought from home. (I loved the books by Ann Brashares, although by the 4th one, I was like, enough already.) I say "girls" because, although the program was very well attended, no boys were in attendance. And I guess a program called Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is not really much of a guy magnet. Anyway, people were supposed to register in advance so I would know how many supplies to purchase. I only had 5 people register. 18 teens showed up (and 2 parents). It got a bit tight on supplies, but it was good in that it forced the teens to get more creative, as well as to mix with the other girls instead of sticking to their own social groups. I noticed that the fabric swatches were a big hit. The girls would cut out shapes and use the fabric glue to attach it to their pants. They also really liked the iron-on patches. Although I provided a small iron, most of the teens just chose to glue the patches on. The fabric markers did not show up very well on the jeans, but the Tulip fabric paint was very popular. I also has a thing of glitter that many of the girls put on their pants. This program was a lot of fun. We didn't even need to watch the movie because everyone was so intent on decorating their jeans that no one really watched the movie. It provided a nice backdrop, though. I would say this program has been one of my favorites, although cleanup is a real pain.
p.s. This program really was in my pants!

Attention YA Authors!

Justine Larbalestier posted an excerpt of my last post on her blog. Not only did it increase traffic on our blog when my whole post was about how we don't actually have lots of traffic (and I like it like that), but she used it to discuss how honest one can/should be with opinions about books knowing that authors might read them.

So this post is to any author who might read something less than flattering that I've written about their work. Feel free to console yourself with these two facts about me: (a) I haven't read any of the Harry Potter books, and (b) I read romance novels too. If you look back at the books I've read and liked, you'll easily see this reflected in my preferences.

Also, you should know that what books I personally enjoy reading (or not) usually has little to do with what books I promote and recommend to teens. For one thing, I'm an adult. But more than that, I think that books should be recommended based upon what that person is likely to enjoy. For example, I recommend Darren Shan books all the time, like maybe every week. I frequently have young teens who want suspense and/or horror or who say they like scary books. I never read these books because that's just not my genre. On the other hand, I LOVED Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist (told you I like romance). But I've never recommended it to anyone except Holly. It contains more "mature" themes and just is not something that has come up as something relevant to the reading tastes of the patrons I interact with.

Of course, I know that this post is like a tree falling in a deserted wood. Any YA authors who find something posted about themselves are not going to go back and read this post; they'll only read the post that mentions them. But here it is for Holly and Cody anyway.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

A Great Plan!

I guess I don't need to explain to my 2 readers that this blog is basically read by the three of us, a couple of our friends on occassion, that person who runs Safe Libraries, people who stumble upon specific posts when Googling, and the YA authors who Google themselves. Honestly, I like it this way because I don't know if I'd enjoy writing for an actual large reader base. However, if we ever want to really increase our traffic and our comments here on ATR, I've got a great idea based upon the The Great Sartorial Debate™ going on at Smart Bitches Trashy Books where more than 500 people have commented so far on this one thread. It is based slightly upon the issue of non-writers like readers and bloggers/reviewers attending the RWA's national conference and mostly upon the issue of whether it is "appropriate" for Marianne Mancusi and Liz Maverick to wear these "costumes" during an RWA author signing event and for Sherrilyn Kenyon to wear this hat.

So here's the plan:
At the next library conference (ALA would be preferable but TLA would do in a pinch), we'll get Stephenie Meyer to wear a big ugly swan hat. I was thinking that Scott Westerfeld could wear some face tattoos and a grey silk suit or maybe John Green could wear a Brotherhood 2.0 shirt that mentions his pants or something, but while I still like those ideas, I think we need a female element. And a short skirt. A short skirt is key because we need to bring in feminism and the possibilty of child sex slavery and pornography (read the comments if you don't know what I'm talking about). So maybe Melissa de la Cruz could come wearing a kind-of short prep school outfit to promote her books, or Maureen Johnson could wear a bathing suit to promote hers (I think she might be open to costumes so this might be a good one to try). Then, we'll need to get Judy Blume to comment here about how it's inappropriate to wear such costumes to an author signing event at a professional conference because the media will focus on these anomalies and have further evidence that YA lit isn't to be taken seriously, something JB has been working for years to try to dispel. JB will post constantly about this issue in response to various reader comments, and even Meg Cabot or Laurie Halse Anderson will chime in for a comment or two. I realize the hard part will be getting everyone to agree to this, especially the costumes, but hopefully we can do it. Stephenie Meyer will probably be the most difficult to convince, so maybe Melissa de la Cruz could be the Ugly Swan Hat backup.

Monday, July 16, 2007

So Gay

I am super happy to hear that the Ad Council, which brought us public service slogans such as "Friends don't let friends drink and drive" and "This is your brain on drugs," is now partnering with the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network to increase awareness about GLBT language. The example they give in this article is "That's so gay!" Uggh, I hate that phrase! I never let my students say that without challenging them on it. My other trigger phrase is getting "raped" when raping has nothing to do with the context. For example, a customer told me that oil companies are "raping us" with gas prices. They might be exploiting you, but they are not degrading or violating you in an extremely personal way. Paying a lot for gas (which we don't really pay that much relatively, let's be honest) is nothing like being raped. Anyway, I digress. I'm just really hopeful that they will come up with something good.

Stephenie Meyer

Less than a month before Eclipse comes out. 122 people on the request list for it right now. I'm #9. I can't wait!

Someone sent this pretty in-depth article about Meyer to the YALSA book listserv. Finally her deliberate Mormon allusion is explained.

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Big Apple

So, I have not been much of a contributing member here at A True Reality lately. But I have a good excuse...I was on vacation. Whoohoo! And on my vacation I made a little stop in New York City. Naturally, I paid of visit to the public library with the oh so famous lions in the front. I was pretty darn excited about visiting the New York Public Library. Many of my favorite YA authors reside in New York so I thought surely the library would have a fabulous teen section. I envisioned myself stealing all their program ideas and passing them off as my own once I returned home. Um, yeah, so apparently the New York Public Library is not actually a lending library. It is more like a museum. Sure, I found some books on the third floor, but they were reference type books and not for checking out. I did get over my disappointment, though, once they issued me my very own library card. A library card! From New York City! Awesome.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Dairy Queen

Book: Dairy Queen
Narrator: Natalie Moore
Book Rating: A
Audio Rating: A


I just adored this book. It was like a Sarah Dessen novel set on a Wisconsin farm. But better because the protagonist wasn't a Type A studious student but an average-to-below-average student with a lot of athletic talent and interest (ie. she wasn't your typical YA female protagonist). Finally it's the guy who is smart. I loved how all the characters were both flawed and likeable/redeeming. I really liked how D.J. had a distinct, believable teen voice. I also loved and didn't see coming the end as D.J. writing this for her English assignment, although I would have to go back and re-read the book to see if it really seemed like something that was intended for an English assignment. Seems a bit more conversational than I'd probably expect.


There's only good, so I'm not even going to bother with a "good" and "bad" here. Moore was super as D.J., a WI farm girl. Maybe sometimes D.J. seemed just a bit too articulate for her character, but I don't know if that's attributable more to Moore or Murdock. I got the impression that I might have thought the book was lighter if I'd read it, but even though there was a hint of conversationality to the book, it actually seemed pretty intense with Moore's tone. I loved it, though. She did distinguish well between characters too, but not so that they were really charicatured. Just a totally engaging performance.
PS. I like the paperback and German covers better than the hardback. And the German title, "Just Us Cows," is also a great title.

Saturday, July 7, 2007


Okay, this is not about YA lit, but it is about authors and writing and stuff. J.R. Ward has a series of vampire romances centered around the males of The Black Dagger Brotherhood. Not terribly important, but anyway, she has this really cool page on her website where she "interviews" all of her main characters. It is just so freaking cool. What a great idea! You need to take a look at it because it's not like a plain interview; it's very creatively done. YA authors should do this, especially people like Stephenie Meyer who have series books that people are madly in love with. It would be a quick and easy way for the authors to explore/expose a little more of their characters and give fans a fun read. Or maybe just give a little follow-up without writing a whole novel or answer FAQs in a creative way. I love it.

On a related note about authors providing good supplementals for their readers, I also like to read deleted scenes. Ward has some on her website, and Scott Westerfeld posted one from Specials on his blog. I like how Westerfeld explained why he first wrote it and why he decided to delete it. Fascinating for those who can't get enough of the books and who like to understand the writing process.

Topic for future discussion: What YA authors have the best websites? What features do you most like to see on author websites?

Friday, July 6, 2007

Rock the Vote

You can vote here for the title of the book that E. Lockhart, Sarah Mlynowski, and Lauren Myracle are writing together. According to Lockhart's blog, the book is "an awesomely fun summer read about three girls taking a road trip through the sticky heat of Florida in pursuit of love and adventure."

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

The Truth About Forever

Book: The Truth About Forever
Author: Sarah Dessen
Narrator: Stina Nielsen
Book Rating: A
Audio Rating: A-


I really like Sarah Dessen's novels, and if you feel the same, then you probably like this one too. It's not exactly the same in terms of character traits or plot complications as This Lullaby or Just Listen, but the writing style is the same and the way things have of getting worked out is as well. The main characters are girls, and none that I've read so far have had brothers. They work through personal family problems while also having a romance. Since I like this plot line, it works for me.

If I had any criticisms at all, it would be two teeny tiny things. First, the main character doesn't have to wait until the very, very end to get the guy, does she? I know it adds to the novel's tension, but I'd like to see them together a little bit, just to change it up some! And the other thing isn't exactly a criticism so much as something that doesn't ring completely true to me. In all of the books I've read, the girl has these really caring (if a little messed up) suburban parents and she is very Type A, and yet she always goes to parties and has no problems either drinking or getting out of the house late at night without even a curfew. Now, in this book, the mom did eventually go crazy with the grounding and curfew, but before that, she, like the other parents, never seemed to ask where the daughter was going or give a curfew or anything. I totally would have had to lie to my parents to go to some party in the woods where alcohol was being served.

I like all of the "supporting" characters and what a great job Dessen does of making them fully realized and likeable.


The Good:
Nielsen didn't have a lot of character voices, and that's the only reason I didn't give the rating a straight-up A. But if you like or prefer regular narration, she did a very good job of sounding like an intelligent but believable teen with appropriate inflection and vocal variety. I thought she did a good job with her characterization of Bert, making him sound likeable, if a bit over-eager.

The Bad:
Nothing was bad. I really enjoyed this performance, and like I said in "the good," the only real drawback was that the characters all pretty much sounded the same with maybe just a slightly lower voice for the males.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Exploits of a Reluctant (but Extremely Goodlooking) Hero

Title: Exploits of a Reluctant (but Extremely Goodlooking) Hero
Author: Maureen Fergus
Rating: B+
Meet our reluctant (but extremely goodlooking) hero, who happens to be the sole heir to his grandfather’s plumbing company, The House of Toilets. He is obsessed with fried chicken, sex, candy, sex, boiled wieners, and sex. And did we mention sex? When The House of Toilets falls into jeopardy, his family moves from Regina to Winnipeg to save the flagship store. Unfortunately, our hero swiftly lands in hot water, as he is caught stealing petty cash from the assistant manager’s office. His punishment: Volunteer at the Holy Light Mission, a soup kitchen located near The House of Toilets. Instead of reforming his ways, however, he ends up in even more trouble due to a prank gone awry and, as a result, finds himself in the middle of a war between the group Business in Support of Business, of which his father is a member, and the Holy Light Mission, which the BISOB perceives as a threat to patron support of their businesses. Our disinclined hero finds that he must overcome his self-centered ways in order to save the Holy Light Mission …… and his own butt!

The Good: I liked the fact that this book presents the average teenage guy in the diary format that's so popular in chick lit. It seems that there's not much literature that just present the teen boy's point-of-view as he goes through day to day life (at least not much that I've come across.) The author's humor is also far above par! One of my favorite quote is: "I knew the breast pump was going to be trouble the minute I applied it to my neck. If you ask me, those things should have a warning label." Priceless!
The Bad: Ok, although the main character redeems himself in the end, throughout most of the book I just found him annoying as hell! I'm sure that's what the author had intended, but it was just a little too much over the top for me.

Daria Snadowsky

I "interviewed" Daria Snadowsky, author of Anatomy of a Boyfriend. I really liked how the book captured so many of the realities of dating and dealing with your first love and loss, and Daria seems extremely cool. She recently started working as a lawyer, and I found her comments about how law school influenced her writing of this book to be very interesting.

I love the cover! Did you have any input in that? How did you feel about its outcome?

I love the cover, too! Angela Carlino of Random House designed it, and I think she struck the perfect balance—it's funny and provocative, but the color scheme and font keep it understated and even dignified. And of course, it's totally illustrative of the title and story. I suggested just a couple of small tweaks—the original doll photographed for the cover has brown hair and brown eyes, but Angela gave him contacts and a dye job after I reminded her that the character of Wes, the main love interest, has blonde hair and blue eyes.

When I read the first e-mail from Wes, I noticed right away that it didn't look like most e-mails that teenagers send (ie. it was properly capitalized with correct punctuation, etc.). Although it definitely had the voice of a teenager, did you consider making it "look" like a typical teen e-mail?

Earlier drafts did have emails and IM chats that appeared more authentic, but I changed them since they just didn't feel true to these particular characters.

Wes didn't have many friends to IM or email until college, so he didn't have much opportunity to hone his textspeak and get used to writing ROTFLOL, IMHO, CYA or . Furthermore, he loved books and reading, so I just couldn't see him choosing to express himself with abbreviations or conveniently misspelled words.

As for Dom, the main character, she was constantly fearful of saying the wrong thing that might drive Wes away. Since a major part of\ntheir relationship existed solely over the computer, their emails took on (at\nleast to Dom) the same kind of significance and depth as the Beauvoir-Sartre\ncorrespondence; consequently, she was hyper-conscious about appearing smart and\nmaking sure that every word and comma was perfect.

I was reading previous interviews you did where you talked about growing up in the 80s, and we've had some discussions on A True Reality about generational differences between authors and teens. What do you think are some of the major differences between being a teen now compared to when you were a teen? (How) do you think that affects writing for a teen audience?

Certainly, one of the biggest differences between being a teen now and being a teen back when I had the (dis)pleasure is the communications technology available to us. I didn't have email or a cell phone until I was a senior in high school, I never used the internet or text-messaged until college, I never listened to MP3s until after I had graduated, and I hadn't heard of MySpace or YouTube until law school when I saw these sites on everyone's laptop screens during our lectures. But now that most everyone gets online well before their teens, YA writers, if they don't want to sound dated, have to constantly familiarize themselves with how young adults are communicating with each other and then weave that ever-evolving cyber-reality into their hopefully timeless storylines. But the nice thing is that *feelings* never become obsolete. Being dumped by the one you love hurts no matter if it's done over IM or a letter written with quills and ink.

When you were writing, did you worry that you would encounter objections or censorship because of the frank sexuality? What do you think is the value in this type of literature for teenagers?

I never worried too much about censorship. Over thirty years have passed since Judy Blume's Forever made its indelible mark, and it continues to be one of the most popular and celebrated YA books ever, so I knew Anatomy would have a solid foundation in the market to stand on. Luckily, the major reviewers recognized that Anatomy's love scenes are similarly meant to be realistic and informative rather than\nsensationalized and erotic. What's bewildering, though, is that over the last year I've seen other YA books face intense criticism for love scenes that are far, far tamer than anything in Anatomy.

This type of literature is valuable for teens because it presents much-needed unromanticized accounts of the highs and lows of love and sex. When we grow up on fairytales like Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, it's perfectly natural for us to expect that our first loves will last forever and that we'll know exactly what to do when the lights dim. YA books like Forever demonstrate to young adults that that's not necessarily the case, and they show all the humiliation and disappointment and awkwardness (as well as the magic and wonder and peace) that's part and parcel of falling in love and being intimate. This is a subject that is often embarrassing for young adults to talk about with their parents and even with each other, so it's important they have access to books that demystify love's emotional and physical roller coaster in a frank and nonjudgmental way.

I have to ask about living in Las Vegas. I know most people probably think it's really great and glamorous and imagine a Paris Hilton lifestyle. How do you like it? What do you like to do?

I love living in Las Vegas! Outside of The Strip, the city is a very typical, American, strip-malled suburb, and it's totally possible to live here and avoid The Strip and all the other tourist-traps if you want. I'm not into gambling or Vegas's infamous nightlife, but you can still find me cruising Las Vegas Boulevard every so often because the casinos simply offer up the best restaurants, shopping, spas, and shows in the city. Also, friends and relatives are always flying into Vegas for their vacations, so I'm on personal tour-guide duty quite a lot.

How do you like being a lawyer?

I've been practicing a few weeks now, but in many ways every day still feels like the first day since I'm constantly learning new things that we were never taught in law school. But that's part of what keeps the job exciting and challenging.

Going to law school turned out to be a huge help to the editing process for Anatomy. My legal writing classes stressed brevity and taught us how to trim fat, so that skill came in very handy when I found myself editing Anatomy down from 599 pages to 284 pages after every publisher in New York rejected the longer version.

My criminal procedure class was\nespecially helpful when I edited the scene where a cop catches Dom and Wes making out in the back of his car. In an\nearlier draft, the cop, upon finding Dom and Wes, immediately searches the car for alcohol and drugs. But criminal procedure taught us about unreasonable searches and seizures, and I realized that my search scene was unconstitutional because the cop didn't have enough probable cause. To fix it, I added a line where the cop asks Wes's permission to go through the car, so now the search fits safely into the "consent" exception to the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement.

It was also law school that helped me come up with Dominique's last name, Baylor. In property class, we learned about bailors and bailees--the classic example of a bailor is someone who brings his watch to a pawn shop, and the shop owner (the bailee) becomes responsible for its safekeeping. I thought how when we love someone, we become "bailors" of our hearts and hope that the person we're entrusting them with won't break them.