aka YA Literature

Thursday, January 31, 2008

More Reasons I'd Love to Live in San Francisco

I went on vacation in San Francisco a few years ago and had such an amazing time and cursed the world for making it such an expensive place to live. Now I *really* wish I lived there. Not Your Mothers Book Club always has incredible authors and I'm always so envious. But now they are having two of my all-time favorite YA authors in March (for my birthday!): Frank Portman and David Levithan. I surely hope someone is doing a book signing in NYC during March 16-20 to help console me. Or that they will be making it to Texas some time this year. Somehow I doubt it, though.

Oh, thank God!

As loyal, long-time readers (ie. Holly & Cody) know, John Green has been dead to me for several months because I discovered that he is a pornographer. I was so distressed. But now he has cleared everything up and said that he is NOT a pornographer. This is so freeing, especially since he is Holly's boyfriend and geeky cute. Oh, and also a good author.

Cody is probably rolling his eyes, but I know Holly will be happy to hear this.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Ink Exchange, Laurell K. Hamilton, Book Covers, & More!

OMG, this story is so fun! Smart Bitches Trashy Books (who helped me get my first-ever "Bluff the Listener" answer right on "Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me" last week) summarizes the kerfuffle that's been going on over this blog post on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch by Jane Henderson called "Laurell K. Hamilton knock-off for teens?" SBTB summarizes everything better than I can, but essentially, Henderson got a galley of Melissa Marr's Ink Exchange (I'm so jealous!!!) and decided from the cover and summary of the book that it is a "knock off" of Hamilton's Merry Gentry series. I love this stuff because it combines my interest in YA and romance novels. Let's be honest, there are some common elements that occur in certain subgenres of both, as I commented on just the other day. However, I am just so at a loss as to why and how Henderson came to these conclusions to intimate "copyright infringement" and a "knock-off." SBTB and the link they reference to Urban Fantasy Land do a good job of refuting most of the problems with Henderson's post. But let me stress some of my biggest problems:

1. Holly Black commented and pointed out that, hello?, these are not the only two people writing about faeries! And no one has a monopoly on writing about them either, just like no one has a monopoly on writing about vampires or vampire hunters or souls who inhabit living humans' bodies.
2. Having said that, I guess if you are not a connoisseur of any of these genres, then you might think they are all "pretty much the same." I don't think that, but I can see how people would. (Hot vampire who is centuries old attracts a young human female who wants to turn vampire to be with him, the love of her life.)
3. I totally do not get the cover art comparison at all. Only in the broadest, most utterly general sense would I say the covers look anything alike. And I know Marr's art was designed specifically based upon events in the book and that her own tattoo artist designed the tattoo (which appears in the book). For examples of how similar book covers can look, just take a look at a couple of the examples on Jacket Whys (or anywhere else, really). Seriously, I think Henderson is really stretching on this one, and/or really didn't think too long about it before posting.
4. I haven't read Ink Exchange yet (but I'd love an ARC!), but although Wicked Lovely did have a little romance, it was far from erotic. Let me direct Henderson to Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist and others if she wants some hot YA action.

TLA Authors!

Holly and I had a fantastic time at the Texas Library Association conference last year in San Antonio, due in large part to the incredible lineup of YA authors they had. This included (but was not limited to): Stephenie Meyer, John Green, Scott Westerfeld, Justine Larbalestier, Avi, Darren Shan, Laura Whitcomb, and Melissa de la Cruz. For some reason, the authors were never at the signing tables when our schedule said they would be, though. We did stumble onto John Green signing with no line at all, but then later we walked past him signing at a different publisher's booth with a line wrapped around the corner.

So anyway, I have really been looking forward to this year and to the announcement of who would be presenting. Jenna Bush is one of the featured speakers, so that has been posted for a while now, but that doesn't excite me. But now that the daily schedules are up, I am now excited about the authors coming! Here is who I am most excited about, although there are other YA authors coming and possibly some I missed in my frantic excitement:
Libba Bray
Brent Hartinger
Maureen Johnson
Gene Yang
Neal Schusterman
Jordan Sonnenblick
Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Perry Moore
Gail Giles
Susan Bartoletti
(One drawback to the lineup of YA authors: I don't think we'll be able to implement my plan.)

However, I am distressed about two things. First, Libba Bray is speaking on Tuesday, and I wasn't planning to get there until Tuesday night (I mean, that is three days out of school right there). Second, Brent Hartinger and Perry Moore are speaking on a panel with Steven Berman about GLBT YA literature during the same time that Joyce freaking Valenza is talking in another session about designing school library websites. Anyone who works with me knows that I simply cannot miss Valenza's session because I am totally into the design and maintenance of our library website and it is JOYCE VALENZA. The good thing is that Brent Hartinger is on like 20 different panels, so I can see him talk at another one. But I'd really like to hear the other panelists and that particular topic. Why do the conference planners do this to me?

Last year, when we got back home from the conference, Holly had all these messages from her friend who is a publishing rep. Holly had spoken to her at the conference, and the friend was trying to get in touch with Holly to invite her/us to a dinner with a bunch of authors like Holly's boyfriend (aka John Green). And we missed it! Is that not incredibly sad? So if any authors want to have dinner this year, let me know. I will not miss it, I promise! Also, I am "a blast!" Oh, and if you are a YA author who lives in NYC, I will be there in March, just in case you want to get together. I promised I would let you know.

Holly, I know you're not librarianing right now, but you should come with me!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Value of a Good Cover

Okay, since I blogged about L.J. Smith's Vampire Diaries, I thought I'd also point out how great it is to republish good books with better covers. The original wasn't awful, but the reissue is much more likely to attract teens than the dated one:

Another cover art change I really liked from the hardback to the paperback:

Who wants to read about a cow?

ALA Social Responsibility Round Table Lists

Here is the 2008 Amelia Bloomer List for YA,"representing books with strong feminist messages," from the ALA Feminist Task Force of the Social Responsibilities Round Table. I'd like to see Catherine Gilbert Murdock on there, but oh well.

Brande, Robin. Evolution, Me, & Other Freaks of Nature
Haddix, Margaret Peterson. Uprising
Lott, Tim. Fearless
Martinez, A. Lee. A Nameless Witch
Sayres, Meghan Nuttall. Anahita's Woven Riddle
Tallman, Shirley. The Cliff House Strangler

Bollmann, Stefan. Women Who Write
Bravo, Ellen. Taking on the Big Boys: Or Why Feminism is Good for Families, Business, and the Nation
Castelluci, Cecil and Jim Rugg. The Plain Janes
Chicago, Judy. The Dinner Party: from Creation to Preservation
Ensler, Eve. Insecure at Last: Losing It in Our Security Obsessed World
Ganz, Nicholas. Graffiti Women: Street Art from Five Continents
Hirsi Ali, Ayaan. Infidel
Levine, Ellen. Rachel Carson: a Twentieth Century Life
Valenti, Jessica. Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman's Guide to Why Feminism Matters

I was very happy with the Rainbow List. Lots of good books on here (including my favorite, Freak Show)!

Berman, Steve. Vintage: A Ghost Story
Cameron, Peter. Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You
Davis, Will. My Side of the Story
Garden, Nancy. Hear Us Out!: Lesbian and Gay Stories of Struggle, Progress, and Hope, 1950 to the Present
Lindenbaum, Pija. Mini Mia and Her Darling Uncle
Moore, Perry. Hero: A Novel
Peters, Julie Anne. grl2grl
St. James, James. Freak Show
Vickers, Lu. Breathing Underwater
Wittlinger, Ellen. Parrotfish

We have an LGBQT book display at the library right now, and we have all of these books except the Berman, Davis, and Lindenbaum books. We also have Dramarama on there.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Blog for Choice Day

Today is Blog for Choice Day, and I wanted to participate. I don't know what Holly and Cody's opinions are on this issue, so this only represents my beliefs.

I read this article by Kristen Nichols mentioned on Ypulse a few weeks ago and thought it was very relevant to the issue of choice as depicted in YA lit. The article is from ALAN Review and is called "Facts and Fictions: Teen Pregnancy in Young Adult Literature." It's a very interesting article all around. Nichols looked at how teen pregnancy is depicted in YA lit, and one of the things she found is that abortion is not depicted in YA lit in proportion to the percentage of real teens who actually choose it (about 40% of pregnant teens choose abortions, whereas only 20% of the books she evaluated did, and then one of those 2 books had the main character forced to have an abortion against her will). Also, the books inaccurately portray the class issues around who chooses to get an abortion. In reality, it is mostly white, middle- and upper-class teens who choose to get abortions, and this is not reflected in YA lit.

I think it's great that girls can see that there are viable choices besides abortion available to them, but I think that we probably need more books that depict abortion as it really happens too. From the retrospective literature review at the beginning of the article, it seems that teen fathers were not widely depicted as participating in teen pregnancy issues, but I think that with newer books like Slam, this is changing. YA lit should reflect the experiences of real teens, and teens should be able to see themselves in the books they read.

Monday, January 21, 2008

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

Fifteen year-old Clary Fray doesn't realize that she is the only one who can see the three teenagers killing the cute blue-haired boy in the storage closet of the Pandemonium Club in NYC. Although the incident doesn't spark the next sequence of events, it is closely tied to it. Clary's mother disappears, Clary barely survives an attack by a psycho killer centipede-alligator-thingy, and Clary soon realizes that she is gifted with the sight of otherworldly creatures because she is one herself (a Shadowhunter, to be exact). She joins up with the three Shadowhunter teenagers she saw killing at Pandemonium to try to find her mother. It turns out that she is in the middle of a conflict between the Shadowhunters, Downworlders, and members of the Shoadowhunter "Circle" that started just before she was born, and her mother knows where the vital Mortal Cup is located. Clary sets out to find the Mortal Cup so she can rescue her mother from the evil shadowhunter Valentine who has returned to the scene. The quote on the front of the book from Holly Black says the novel is "funny, dark, and sexy." I agree whole-heartedly with all of those adjectives and would add "suspenseful" as well. I can't wait for the next installment, which comes out in March.

It occurred to me in reading this book that the only thing that separates this from a paranormal romance novel is the teen-age of the characters and the lack of sex scenes. I don't say this negatively since, hey, I like romance novels. I am just noting it because I can see how people who liked this book and others like it as teens may grow up to like romance novels. Or I can see how adults who like romance novels would like this book. I never thought I liked sci-fi or fantasy, but apparently I now find myself liking "urban fantasy."

The Vampire Diaries by L.J. Smith

I think I've been reading too many YA vampire novels. I guess I hoped I was hooked on this "genre" after reading the Twilight series. However, none have really lived up to that, and I've only thought they were all mediocre stories. And the other day I was trying to help an English teacher choose indepent reading novels for her class list, and I realized that I was not much help because I hadn't read most of the books I was suggesting to her. If she had wanted teen vampire fiction, then I would have been utterly helpful.

Anyway, I say all this to lead into a vampire book that I actually quite liked. The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening & the Struggle by L.J. Smith actually had an interesting and non-obvious plot, well-developed characters, and really good suspense. It was dark and not completely high school-cliquish, the way a vampire novel ought to be IMO. I was more scared reading this than I ever was reading Twilight. It's about a human high school senior named Elena who is beautiful and popular. When school starts, a hot, mysterious new boy (Stefan) is attending school with her. Elena is attracted to him and tries to pursue him, after dumping her cute and extremely nice and reliable boyfriend Matt. Of course, Stefan is a vampire who was born centuries before. He is trying to escape the ugliness of vampire life by blending in as a high schooler in small Fells Church, VA. Weird and creepy things start happening to Elena and others she knows. A homeless man is found dead with his throat ripped open, and a girl is almost attacked in the graveyard on homecoming night. Stefan is blacking out when these events occur, and he thinks he is doing it (and so does most of the town). He tries to stay away from Elena because she reminds him of someone he once knew and because he is trying to protect her from himself. But she is strong-willed and their attraction is great, so eventually they succumb to their attraction. But all is still not well! Stefan's evil older brother, Damon, has followed Stefan to Fells Church and is also determined to have Elena for himself.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Author Blogs

The Book Design blog had a recent post about author blogs, and I really disagree with a lot of what they asserted, at least with YA authors. Maybe it's different for nonfiction writers.

"Author blogs and web sites are not so much for an author’s current readers but serve as a strategy for attracting new readers."
I don't know, maybe this is the authors' hope (not too sure about even that, though), but from what I have seen, it is the authors' fans who read their blogs. I do read Meg Cabot's blog even though I don't read her books, but otherwise, I don't read the blogs of any authors I haven't read. I read blogs for a myriad of reasons, from waiting breathlessly for news of upcoming books to getting insight on their writing process to enjoying the random and interesting comments.

"Most people are never very interested in blogs that are too personal. No one really cares about what you had for dinner last night or seeing photos of your cat. Blogs are not for writing about your interesting life."
Again, I really disagree. I find the personal stuff very interesting. I love hearing about Meg Cabot's ailments and favorite movies and love for cupcakes. I like to read about Sarah Dessen's new baby. The incestuous world of NYC YA authors fascinates me (Oh, Scott Westerfeld, Justine Larbalestier, and Maureen Johnson had dinner with Libba Bray? Fascinating!). All this lets me feel like I "know" them better. It personalizes them and makes me care about the success of their writing. Plus, these people are writers! They have clever turns-of-phrase and jokes and such that are entertaining.

Oh, and I am VERY interested in seeing pictures of authors' cats! Indeed, if any YA authors read this, post pictures of your cats! (I'll accept other animals as well, but they will not be as adorable to me as cats.) Maybe I should start a blog just posting pictures of YA author pets...

Friday, January 18, 2008

More Award Nominees I Haven't Read

Edgar Award YA Nominees:
Rat Life by Tedd Arnold
Diamonds in the Shadow by Caroline B. Cooney
Touching Snow by M. Sindy Felin
Blood Brothers by S.A. Harazin
Fragments by Jeffry W. Johnston

Romantic Times YA Nominees:
The Nature of Jade by Deb Caletti
Marked by P.C. Cast
Girl at Sea by Maureen Johnson
Something Rotten by Alan Gratz

I did read Marked and liked it okay but didn't love it. The romance wasn't a huge element in that, IMO. I am waiting to read Nature of Jade once it is checked in. I never realized there was a strong romantic element to Something Rotten. I do love how many categories RT has for their awards. I would love to see something like this for YA awards. What is the best YA romance of the year, for example? I kind of liked The Off Season, although it isn't a traditional romance with HEA. Last year, Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist won. I can't think of a better, more fitting winner.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Now You See Her

Hope Shay is a talented actress who seems to have everything going for her. She is enrolled in an elite school for the performing arts and is supposedly dating the hottest guy. But then she disappears for a few days. A massive hunt ensues and she is found, dehydrated, but in good condition. Soon, people began to question whether or not her abduction was faked. In Now You See Her, the reader hears the story from Hope's perspective.

I picked up Now You See Her because I really enjoy Jacquelyn Mitchard's adult novels. This is her first attempt at a YA novel. Am I the only one that gets excited when authors cross the boundaries between YA and Adult fiction? Anyway, I enjoyed the book, but not as much as I enjoyed the Mitchard's adult novels. The School Library Journal calls Now You See Her a "psychological thriller." I don't know if I would go that far. As you go along, it becomes glaringly obvious that you have an unreliable narrator, which made me doubt everything she said. However, I think teens will like the book. It is an interesting read and a change in pace from the typical "beautiful, fabulous teen who has it all" novel.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Printz Award

So I watched the book awards on the ALA webcast this morning, and I was pretty shocked by the results. Like Trisha said, "Huh?" I know a couple of people were happy with the winner, but I had really not heard much about any of these books, save for Your Own Sylvia. I mean, did anyone have any of these in their top 10 possibilities? I can't comment on their quality since I haven't read any of them, but I've started The White Darkness (not blown away by the first chapter but giving it a chance). Of course, I'm probably just bitter and disappointed that Freak Show didn't win anything and that we won't get to hear James St. James give an acceptance speech this summer. I am glad that this gives me some new titles to check out, and since they don't overlap with the National Book Awards, it's good to see that recognition gets spread around. I'm surprised The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian didn't get anything, though, since there has been so much librarian-love for that book.

I am also a little surprised by the Alex Awards. I thought Nineteen Minutes would be a good candidate, as would The Zookeeper's Wife.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Cirque du Freak

I'm not a big Darren Shan reader, but I thought it worth mentioning that John C. Reilly is playing Crepsley in the movie version of Cirque du Freak. Selma Hayak is playing Madame Truska. Big names.

This is a big year for YA books being made into movies. I'm most excited about Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist. I really liked Michael Cera in Juno.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Racy Teen Lit!

Radar has a quiz that "helps you choose the racy teen novel that's right for you!" My results? "You like depressing, angsty novels about death/illness/divorce/eating disorders. May we direct you to a fine book from the 'literature of pain' genre? Before I Die by Jenny Downham." Umm, not so much. I actually don't usually like problem novels.

Oh yeah, there's also an article: "Pimples and Hos: A new breed of teenage lit has some grown women hot and bothered." Since romance books are great sellers, I'm not surprised that these books are popular, nor that adults would like them. The article also touches on recent "adult" authors who have made "forays" into YA lit. I probably have more to say about these issues, but I need to go eat dinner.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

What I Read Over My Christmas Vacation

In addition some YA books I couldn't bring myself to finish and to some adult books I did finish , these are the books I managed to read over my vacation. Sorry for not doing justice to them here.

Beastly by Alex Flinn
A retelling of "Beauty and the Beast" in modern-day NYC with teen characters. I really liked it, finished it quickly, and will definitely be recommending it (Holly, be sure to check it out). I liked the modernization (including the very clever chat logs) and the little twist at the end. Since it was a very faithful retelling of the tale, however, there weren't many surprises and the problems I have with the original story (ex. lucky Beauty, she gets a prince anyway!) are still there. Plus, Beauty/Lindy in this story isn't very beautiful, so while Beast/Kyle learns that he can love someone who isn't beautiful, it seems that Beauty/Lindy doesn't really get to "learn" anything. Still fun, though.

Spanking Shakespeare by Jake Wizner
This was a quick, light read, but do teenage boys really think about sex this much? Shakespeare Shapiro thinks about it pretty much all the time. On the rare moments he isn't thinking about it, he's thinking about college admissions and how to win the school's memoir contest.

Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr
Deanna Lambert is still trying to live down the story (both with her father and her peers) of when her father found her having sex with her brother's 17 year-old friend in a car two years ago when she was 13. Her brother now has a wife and a daughter, and Deanna dreams of being able to earn enough from her summer job so that she can move out of her parents' house along with her brother and his new family. Definitely a book I'm going to recommend, particularly as a Speak read-alike.

Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann
Not a YA book but one that was mentioned with YA interest in a few reviews, this is a cute, unique "sheep dective story." The story opens with some sheep in Ireland whose shepherd has been found murdered. The sheep investigate to discover the murderer. Each sheep has his/her own personality and talents, and they have their own secrets and past to uncover. There are some clever and humorous parts, many based on the sheep's misunderstanding of humans and their language. For instance, they mistakenly believe that the town minister is named "God." When one sheep observes a funeral at a cemetary and reports back to the other sheep: "The sheep stared at one another in horror. Fancy planting dead people in your garden! They liked God less and less."

The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman
The true story of a couple who were the keepers of the Warsaw Zoo before WWII. During the war, they were active in the underground resistance, and the book describes how they hid Jews in the former zoo throughout the war to help them escape. The book was engrossing, and this is a popular topic among teens. I highly recommend this book.

Friday, January 4, 2008


Cody and Holly know that I actually have a life and interests outside of YA lit and librarianship, and one of those interests is a devotion to Project Runway. My friend even bought me a bracelet from Chloe Dao's Lot 8 for Christmas this year. So, of course, I am super excited by the Tim Gunn READ poster. I would like to point out that he is actually holding Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain in the ALA Graphics catalog, not Everyone Poops. If ALA's site weren't so unbelievably slow, I might have been able to get the actual poster.

Let me take this opportunity to say that I think good book posters are a great promotional item for books. I have already mentioned that I am a big fan of good book t-shirts, but posters are even easier to produce and deliver to readers and librarians. We make posters out of book covers, but I'd like to see some more creative posters that I could put up.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Boot Camp

Title: Boot Camp
Author: Todd Strasser
Rating: A+

Garrett Durrell is the child most parents dream of: he was reading at age 3; was in all the gifted programs throughout childhood; and stands at the top of this high school class. The only problem is that it all comes too easily, and he grown bored. He starts skipping class, justifying it by the fact that he can learn in 3 days what it takes most kids to learn in a week; unfortunately, his parents don't feel the same way. However, when Garrett begins dating his teacher (who he feels is his intellectual equal), his parents finally say enough is enough.

So enters Lake Harmony, an exclusive behavior modification camp which guarantees results. Garrett's parents "enroll" him for $4,000/month (signing a waiver absolving the camp from any liability), and then arrange to have him kidnapped and transported to the "camp".

At Lake Harmony, Garrett and the other teens are subjected to extreme physical and psychological abuse until they are broken down and "rebuilt" into the children their parents want. From the beginning, Garrett questions the justification for his imprisonment; after all, his only crimes are skipping school to visit a few museums...and falling in love with someone his parents (and society) don't approve of. Garrett soon befriends two other wrongly-admitted teens, and the three decide they must escape Lake Harmony at any cost...the question is, can they do it???

The Good: Boot Camp was one of the most thought-provoking YA books I have ever read. After reading of the extreme conditions that exist at Lake Harmony Boot Camp, Strasser includes a brief Afterword that explains the truths behind the story. Boot camps actually exist all over the country - and in numerous foreign countries (to escape U.S. laws against mistreatment.) Teens can be sent there for ANY reason provided their parents are willing to pay; their only chance for escape is accepting their parent's views or reaching legal adulthood at 18. Boot Camp provides a fascinating view into these facilities and raises the question of parent/teenage rights. I would highly recommend this book for book club/group discussion. I, also, imagine that this book would be highly popular with guys (especially those that might be troublemakers themselves!)

The Bad: I have nothing critical to say about this work. It was well-written and extremely interesting.