aka YA Literature

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

My Sister's Keeper

I didn't know that movie version of My Sister's Keeper was in the works, but apparently Cameron Diaz is playing the mother and Abigail Breslin is playing Anna. I'm not really seeing CD in the part. Alec Baldwin and Joan Cusack are also cast. Is Cusack Julia? Don't see it. Baldwin is playing Campbell, of course.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Queen Geeks in Love

Laura Preble's second novel, Queen Geeks in Love, continues the story of four friends determined to change the world (or at least their high school) in the most geektastic of ways (a website, a graphic novel, and a geek talent show, in case you are wondering). In Love also focuses on Shelby and her newfound relationship with Fletcher. Shelby is a total commitment-phobe and literally gets sick to her stomach at the thought of getting serious with a boy. The other Queen Geeks (Becca, Amber, and Elisa) also make their own attempts at relationships all the while expanding their club and planning a talent show of epic proportions.

Although I haven't read the prequel, Queen Geeks Social Club, I didn't feel lost while reading In Love. At first, I found Shelby's "witty" remarks a little lame and I was annoyed at her inability to communicate with her boyfriend. Then, I remembered that this book is aimed at a much younger crowd and I tried to view the story through the eyes of young teen. I also felt like the Queen Geeks weren't all that likable. Considering they were best friends, they didn't seem very supportive of each other initially. And why did Shelby feel the need to narrate about how much her fat friend was eating (example: "I think she ate half the large pie all by herself.")? For a group of girls who sent Twinkies to super skinny supermodels in the first book, they sure were focused on the fact that their friend is chubby and likes to eat. But, the girls totally rallied. I started to actually care about the characters and they seemed to grow more likable. Even the sense of humor improved as the book wore on. And, hey, I really liked Shelby's robot, Euphoria, who acts more like a mom than a robot.

This is the sort of book that, as a librarian, I know exactly the types of readers who would enjoy it (not the type that reads Gossip Girls, but maybe the more emo, artsy, or "geeky" kids). In fact, Sheryl mentioned to me the other day that a 10th grader at her school asked her to order them for the library. Apparently, she loves them. So, even though Amazon has the reading level at ages 9-12, it can definitely appeal to older readers (actually, considering some of the language and romantic relationships, I would probably steer it more towards the 12 and up sect). I look forward to reading more adventures of the Queen Geeks.

Visibility by Sarah Neufeld

Visibility by Sarah Neufeld is a fictional story about Natalie, a painfully shy girl who is all too aware that she is "normal." Natalie's mother, Jadyn, has the ability to turn invisible. The world knows of Jadyn's powers and dislikes her for her unwillingness to use her powers for good. Natalie has a very cool relationship with her mother and so she does not divulge the fact that, on her 17th birthday, Natalie realizes she is able to become invisible as well.

I found Visibility to be an interesting story. I really liked the premise...a teen superhero who has an angsty relationship with her mom. I kept thinking of the animated movie, The Incredibles. Another interesting aspect of the story are the drawings interspersed throughout the book. Natalie's bodyguard is an artist who loves to draw caricatures and superheros in his free time. The reader is able to get a glimpse of those drawings. One thing I did not like about the novel is the lack of character development. I would have liked to know more about Jadyn's mother, a very unlikable person, but who perhaps is misunderstood. Also, Natalie is shown as a really shy teen living in her mom's shadow, but we don't get much more than that. Visibility doesn't have romance, or even humor, but it does have suspense, some action, and an intriguing plot.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Twilight Ball

This summer, I'm going to throw a "Twilight Ball" at my library....the only thing is that I need help! Any good ideas about what to do to keep the teems occupied?

I'm thinking that I'll begin with punch and cookies (or something like that.) Then, I want to have a trivia contest over the 3 books...with hard questions! (What year did Edward "die"? Where did Edward and Bella have their first date? etc.) I'm thinking I'll give copies of the books for prizes. After that, I'm thinking of getting pizzas and playing music for awhile. Oh, I'll also end with a costume contest with two prizes....one for best dressed and another for the person with the best character costume.

So far, that's my program? What do you think? Do you think the will teens enjoy that? Would they actually dance? I'm completely open to ideas/suggestions!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

In Character

NPR is doing a series called "In Character" where NPR looks at great fictional characters and what makes them so memorable. I was watching this video where Elizabeth Blair interviews Cookie Monster. It got me thinking, it would be fun to "interview" some YA lit characters. Who would you most like to interview using the Proust Questionnaire? I like the Inside the Actors Studio questions too.

Also, you can nominate your favorite American fictional character by writing an essay not more than 150 words describing the character and "and why you believe he or she is important, compelling and/or provocative." NPR might include your essay on their blog and/or on the air. The only YA character I saw (there were several children's book characters) was Jessica Darling from Megan McCafferty's Sloppy Firsts.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Latest Twilight Movie News

According to this MTV blog post, Anna Kendrick has been cast as Jessica Stanley and Justin Chon as Eric Yorkie. Not the biggest parts, but I am still dedicated to keeping informed. Seeing as how they are supposedly starting filming this month, I can't believe they don't have more parts filled. The post mentioned that they're going to be announcing the casting for Sam and Emily. I'm going to assume this is for the subsequent movies since Emily didn't appear in Twilight.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Interview with Adam Selzer

I recently read Adam Selzer's book, How to Get Suspended and Influence People. It was such a fun read. How to Get Suspended manages to get across a great message about censorship without sounding preachy. After reading his very humorous book, I was so excited when Adam Selzer agreed to let me interview him...

I am looking forward to reading Pirates of a Retail Wasteland when it is released in April. Can you tell me a little more about the other books you have coming out (ie. I put a Spell On You and Lost and Found)?
I Put a Spell On You is about a spelling bee, but it's based on Watergate. It has four main narrators - an overscheduled girl who wants to run away and be a hippie, a girl who uncovers a major cover-up, a class clown who spends his spare time planning his own funeral, and a home-schooled kid who has been enrolled in school just to compete in the spelling bee and becomes fascinated with heavy metal. It'll probably break the record for Most Jokes About Richard Nixon Ever in a Middle Grade novel. It'll be out in September. In the sequel, the principal will try to hold onto his job by throwing around words like "pride" and "values" like so much confetti.

Lost and Found is still in progress - it's another middle grade. Sort of a cross between Skinnybones and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

There's also The Wisenheimer's Guide to U.S. History, which has been a lot of fun to write. I spent much of last week on the phone with Billy Joel's people to clear some rights to use one of his songs in the book - just talking about that makes me feel like a real big shot. Sitting around making up funny captions for pictures of dead politicians is really a lot of fun.

Some other projects include:
- Weird Chicago: The Book (that'll be out soon)
- a couple of top secret YA books
- a graphic novel based on my songs "Friday Avenue" and "Pushing Cheerleaders Down the Stairs."

And, of course, there's "Pirates of the Retail Wasteland," which is barely two months away! I've been working on versions of that story for years now, and I'm SO excited that it's finally coming out! It's a bit of a risk - if the theme of HTGSAIP was censorship, the theme of this one is bad city planning, and maybe kids don't mind bad city planning so much as they mind censorship. They should, though - they're the ones who really get screwed by it!

Were you really a contestant on Double Dare?
Nope. That's one of the fake things in my bio. Same with having seen Ethel Merman naked. Never did that.

When did you start writing How to Get Suspended and Influence People and what was the inspiration behind it?
I first started writing it in 2003 after carrying around the first line in my head for about a year. Actually, it goes further back - I had the idea to write a YA/MG book that dealt with censorship issues when I was Leon's age. In college I got the idea to do something about a movie producer who tries to make an avant garde sex ed film. Somewhere along the lines I mixed those two ideas with the first line that I was carrying around in my head, and there was the book! And I'm certainly no stranger to censorhip - I went to high school in Gwinnett County, Georgia, where they were STILL trying to ban Harry Potter a year or so ago.

Did you attempt to make the avant garde sex ed video you describe in your book? (If not, you should!)
I haven't; I keep hoping someone else will (hint hint!)

What made you decide to write for the YA audience? Do you feel you are more restricted when writing for teens?
I didn't feel that I was enough of a grown-up to have any business writing adult stuff. I don't feel a whole lot older now than I did when I was 14. And when certain songs come on the radio, I could swear I was seven again. YA isn't very restrictive; you just have to cut out some swear words and keep the sexual references vague. Other than that, you can write in a pretty natural rhythm. Middle grade is MUCH harder, because you can't just let the characters ramble on. Getting the rhythm and pacing and timing down in middle grade is a whole different animal.

Did you read a lot as a middle schooler/teen?
Sure! That was the era when everyone read Christopher Pike and/or RL Stein. My friends and I preferred Pike - he had a lot of sex, drinking and smoking in his books, which we got a real kick out of. I went to Dean Koontz from that. Then one day I found a copy of "Paingod and Other Delusions" by Harlan Ellison in a used book store - a title like that was irresistable, and the book was a knock-out. It had the famous story "'Repent, Harlequin!' said the Ticktock Man" in it. That blew me away. And by high school, I had pretty much based my life on the teachings of Daniel Pinkwater. To this day I sometimes feel like I'm living in a Pinkwater book - and not just because locations from his books sometimes show up on the tours I run!

Do you truly believe in ghosts? If so, any encounters you'd like to share?
That really depends on what counts as a ghost! I mean, when we think of ghosts, we think of a transparent version of a person, usually wearing clothes that, while also transparent, still cover up all of the ghost's hoo-hoos. I've never seen anything like that. But I've seen some pretty weird stuff - part of my job is going on ghost investigations. But I'm not sure any of those weird things were actually caused by a dead guy. The other night I recorded a podcast at a hotel that's supposed to be haunted by Theodore Roosevelt to see if he'd endorse a candidate in time for Super Tuesday, but we couldn't get him to show up. Sometimes I think that if ghosts exist, they sure as hell don't want me to know about it!

What do you do in you spare time (you know, when you aren't ghostbusting, writing novels, or planning a wedding)?
I play music - not particularly WELL, but I have a lot of fun with it. I watch more TV than I should really admit, and take long walks around the city. I could walk around the city all day and all night and never get tired of it. I cook a lot and redecorate constantly. I follow politics like most guys follow sports - went to see Barack Obama last night!

Do you have to work for your geeky hotness or does it just come naturally?
The geeky part certainly comes naturally - I've spent a fair share of nights camped out waiting for Star Wars movies, and I'm sure ANYONE who knew me in school will tell you I was a big dork. If I can claim any hotness, it's just a result of working hard to impress my fiance, who is all kinds of hot. I'm resisting the urge to quote Juno right about now :)

Love Sucks: The Photo

Since there were so many requests for the photo of my surprise-hit "Love Sucks" bulletin board that I posted about, I took a picture. It didn't turn out too well because of the lighting, but my camera battery went dead, so this is all you get. Sorry!

It isn't terribly exciting, but it seems to have attracted interest. In case you cant' tell, here are the books I included:
Twilight & New Moon
Demon in My View
Boys That Bite
Vampire Diaries
Millenium Snow
Vampire Academy
Vampire Knight
Blue Bloods
Interview With a Vampire

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Love Sucks

We have a bulletin board outside the library in the hallway. I manage to change it out every month-6 weeks or so and usually do something themed with the season. In "honor" of Valentine's Day, I put one up last week that is black with red lettering that says, "Love Sucks." It has two drops of "blood" dripping from the letters. Around that are book covers from teen vampire love stories. This has been so poular, I cannot even tell you. I pretty much do these bulletin boards because (a) we are in charge of decorating it, (b) I'm creative like that, and (c) it just seems nice to give students something fun and new to look at when they pass by. But this one has lead directly to several checkouts. Almost every day I have at least one person come in and ask for a book that is on the bulletin board. Today I had three people ask about the books. One girl even wrote down 5 titles to inquire about. I had no idea it would be so popular. If I get a chance, I'll try to take a picture and post it.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Geeky Hot

The lovely ladies over at Books, Boys, Buzz recently did a post on "Geeky Cute Authorboyz." Topping their list was John Green. Now we here at ATR have oft referred to John Green as Geeky Hot(tm). In fact, it was in one such embarrassing post that John Green stumbled across our site which led to my favorite author interview we have done so far. I was surprised to see how geeky hot Marcus Zusak is. He doesn't write the way he looks, if that makes any sense.

Getting back to the point, I would like to add another YA author to the "Geeky Cute Authorboyz" list: Adam Selzer. I read his book, How to Get Suspended and Influence People, this weekend and I loved it. I also couldn't help noticing his picture in the back book jacket. Yes, my friends, Adam Selzer belongs on the Geeky Hot list. Another interesting thing about Adam Selzer is that he works for Weird Chicago Tours. I kid you not, when I was in Chicago, my friends and I were all set to take the Weird Chicago Ghost Tour! The plans fell through, but still...neat-o coincidence, right?

Side note: Is it just me, or do I have way too many links in this post? Also, is it a sign that I blog too much when I wish I could do HTML links during everyday conversation? Like I was trying to verbally explain to my sister about the new bed we were getting and I kept wishing I could just link to it.