aka YA Literature

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Blog Giveaway!

Are you interested in a free t-shirt? A super, cute black one that says Airhead on the front? Because I have a couple to give away thanks to Meg Cabot’s awesome publicist, Rachel. She actually sent me five shirts, but then my 13 year old niece wanted one, so I had to hook her up. And then my 11 year old niece was all, that’s not fair, so I had to give one to her, too. And, of course, Sheryl needs something to give to her kids in Poland, so that leaves us two very fabulous shirts left to give away! If you haven’t read Airhead yet, I highly recommend it. I really, really liked it and I think it appeals to a much wider age-range than many of Meg’s other books (don’t you love how I referred to her as Meg? Like we are BFF. That’s what happens when you read someone’s blog, you start thinking you know them). Anyway, now that I have rambled on enough, if you are interested in winning a t-shirt, just leave a comment saying whose body/life you would like to have if given the chance (this will make much more sense once you read the book). As for me? I am thinking Jessica Biel.

Edit to add: OK, I was doing a little catch-up reading on Meg Cabot's blog and I saw that she did an Airhead t-shirt giveaway, too (not surprising)! And then I saw that she asked people to leave in the comments who they would like to swap lives with! Shoot, I thought I was being clever coming up with that, but I really just look like a big copycat. However, I can take something positive from this...Meg Cabot and I think alike.
I also wanted to add that the winner will be notified via their blog (or email if you gave me one) this Friday. Good luck!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Breaking Dawn

Entertainment Weekly has a sneak peek of the first chapter of Breaking Dawn posted, which is also coming out tomorrow in a "special edition" of Eclipse. I'm already concerned that Bella is going to be uber-annoying.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

More Stephenie Meyer

Here's an interview Publisher's Weekly did with Stephenie Meyer about The Host. I thought it was interesting that she said this was more about love than about the sci fi aspects of the book and that the story was really a means of talking about how much we take our humanity for granted. I thought there were some really excellent issues in the novel about who we are (ex. How much are we dependent upon our body for who we are? What is a "soul?" etc.). My friend said she didn't like the body that they chose at the end, but I liked it in the sense that it showed how very different bodies can be and how much that impacts us. I have to admit, though, that while I'm not usually one to be so concerned with needing "strong" female characters, I was getting annoyed with just how self-sacrificing and meek Wanda was. And while I enjoyed the book, I don't think there ought to be a sequel. I thought it was complete and satisfying just as it was (in 600+ pages!).

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Twilight Movie

During the MTV Awards pre-show this weekend, a complete scene of Twilight will be broadcast. Wonder what scene it will be. MTV says it is an action scene involving Pattinson, Stewart, and Gigandet.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Dear Magic Blog

Holly and I have sometimes referred to this as The Magic Blog because it has given us some cool opportunities, like when I got to meet Daria Snadowsky. Also, Heather sent me an ARC of Lock & Key that I was so desperate for. So I thought I'd throw this out to the Internet ether and see if anyone can help me out.

I am volunteering to teach English in Poland this summer through the Kosciuszko Foundation, and I have to bring gifts for the 15 students in my homeroom (ages 16-19). Naturally, me being me (ie. a librarian) I was thinking I want to bring them books (They are trying to learn English, right?). But here are my problems in order of importance: (1) I don't think I can afford 15 books; (2) It needs to be pretty "clean" because I don't know these students and I don't want to get the foundation in trouble; and (3) Will teenagers think a book is lame? ("Wow, a book. Gee, thanks. Just what I always wanted from America.")

So...if any reader, author, publicist, publisher, etc. reads this and has books or t-shirts or something along those lines that they'd like to donate to me to give to the students, you would really be helping me out! And spreading the joy of YA lit to Poland!

It's Stephenie Meyer Everywhere!

Lately, it seems like I've been drowning in the world of Stephenie Meyer! With my Twilight Ball less than 3 weeks away, I've been working fanatically trying to get all the details worked out! Right now, I'm re-reading the series to create questions for a trivia contest I'll be having during the Ball (I'll post the complete list of questions here so that everyone can test there Twilight knowledge!)

I've also started reading The Host last week. I can't exactly say I'm enjoying it as much as Twilight as this point (but note that I'm still in the first 150 pages!) I do enjoy how much of the book is taking place in Arizona; I feel like I have this special little connection with Stephenie by knowing the secret landmark clues she discusses (Picacho Peak, Four Peaks, etc.) I'll write a full review once I've actually completed the whole novel.

Finally, congratulations to Ms. Meyer! In addition to having The Host top the New York Times Best-Seller list, Stephenie was also named one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People of 2008! Wow, I don't know how things could end up any better for her!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


I have been a very bad and negligent blogger recently. Not only have I not been posting, but I've had good stuff to post about that I haven't. For example, I met Tera Lynn Childs at her book launch party and (a) didn't have a working camera, and (b) haven't blogged about meeting her or about her book. Oh.My.Gods. was soooo cute! It is fun chic lit, but it has a very unique twist.

Phoebe is excited to start her senior year of high school. If she maintains her grades, she's been promised a great track scholarship to USC where she plans to attend with her two best friends. But her mother takes a summer vacation to Greece and comes back engaged to a a Greek man and announces to Phoebe that they are immediately moving to a tiny Greek island for Phoebe's senior year. Not only is Phoebe upset about this for all the obvious reasons, but when she gets to the island and her new school (of which her stepfather is the headmaster), she discovers she also has a rather evil stepsister, and the private, exclusive, super-secret boarding school has a huge secret (which the title might clue you into). I love the title, and I love that the book is totally appropriate for middle schoolers. (I think the worst word used was "bi-atch"). The only thing I didn't love was that I thought surely there must be some secret reason why Phoebe's mother took her out of school right before her senior year when she could easily have waited just one year. What mother, especially a psychologist, wouldn't do this for her daughter? But see TLC's response to this below.

I figured that since I was so remiss in posting about this that I should ask Tera Lynn to do a little interview for me/you, so here you go! (Don't read questions #4 or #5 if you're worried about possible spoilers.)

1. Someone at the launch party mentioned a Golden Heart Award. Explain!
The Golden Heart is the Romance Writers of America contest for best unpublished manuscript. I finaled with my very first manuscript, an historical romance titled Summer Sapphire, which was a Romeo & Juliet story set in Regency England (the era of Jane Austen). Sadly, I didn't win, but finaling in this contest gave me the confidence to keep writing.

2. How did you come up with the idea for Oh.My.Gods.? What about the title?
Oh. My. Gods. was born when I came up with the original title, Growing Up Godly--which was a twist on the title of the reality show, Growing Up Gotti. Since I'm not an inspirational writer, I had to come up with an alternate meaning for "godly." I've always been a myth and history nut, so the Greek gods seemed like the perfect solution. Since obviously someone would have to be "growing up," I knew this needed to be a young adult story. Gradually, the pieces fell into place until I had my premise and my main character, Phoebe. The story developed from there.

3. How did you become familiar with Greece and Greek for the book?
I acquired a library of research books. (I love any excuse to browse the bookstore!) Travel guides, like Greek Island Hopping and the Eyewitness Guide to the Greek Islands, help me get a feel for the landscape and architecture of that world. The Eyewitness Guide is great because it includes fully illustrated pages of history, cultural information, and local foods. Culture Shock!: Greece gave me some insights into modern Greek culture and daily life. Also, of course, I scoured the internet. I used online maps to locate the actual island of Serfopoula, Greek-English dictionaries to come up with my gods-related terminology, and tons of other sites to find everything from ferry schedules to the history of marathons. **

4. Why didn't Phoebe's mother wait one year to move to Greece???? I kept thinking it was going to be revealed that she knew about Phoebe before they moved, which is why she wanted to move there so soon.
I was so surprised when you told me you were mad at her mom about this! I never even thought about it, and here's why: Phoebe's dad died very suddenly six years ago. Since then, Valerie had thrown herself into her work and full-time focus on Phoebe, putting aside her own needs. When she finally had a chance at happiness, to do something for herself for the first time in so many years, it wouldn't have been fair to make her wait.

5. What can you tell us about the sequel?
Well, it's currently languishing without a title, though hopefully that will soon be remedied. It's hard to dish without giving spoilers, so I'll just go ahead and give (a cagey) one. The sequel takes place the summer after Oh. My. Gods. (between Phoebe's 12th and 13th years) and stars the same fun cast of characters, with a couple of new additions. She's having trouble adjusting to her new, ah-hem, life and has to go to a special summer program, affectionately known as Goddess Bootcamp, to improve her control. (Is that vaguely clear enough?) It will be available next summer.

6. What has been your best/favorite author experience so far?
I'm still in the honeymoon stage, so it's all great. If I had to pick one moment, though, it would be getting my first fan mail. It was from a teen bookseller in the L.A. area who'd gotten the advance copy from her boss. This was around three weeks before my release date, so at first I thought she had the wrong author. Or the wrong book. Or it was some kind of scam and I was going to have to send her my bank account number and first pet's name. But no, it was legit. This was my first response from an actual teen (you know, my target audience?) so it was a huge thrill. And a huge relief.

7. If you weren't an author, what would you be?
Miserable! Seriously, I've considered--and pursued--many different careers: science teacher, doctor, intellectual property lawyer, architect, actor, wedding planner, web designer, historic preservationist, theatre history professor, environmental biologist... I could go on, but you get the idea. Writing is the first one I've stuck with longer than a year or two (going on five, now). I can still indulge in all those other, fleeting passions...but now they count as research for a book!

** In my opinion, you should definitely take this opportunity/excuse to travel to Greece! Write it off as a business expense. Take lots of pictures of you there for your website. Or take pictures of the scenery and say this is where this or that from the book happens.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Paper Towns

I mentioned the other day that I got an ARC of John Green's Paper Towns at TLA and was very excited to start reading it. Ever since I got back from TLA, my coworker asked me every day if I finished it because she was so eager to talk about it with me, especially the ending. And every day when I said I hadn't finished it yet, she'd tell me some new aspect of the book that she loved. Well, I finally finished it last week and could talk about it with her (and now you!).

First, let me describe the basic plot. Quentin is a high school senior who is about to graduate. He's an average guy with a few average close guy friends who do average high school guy things like play video games and IM each other at night. He has a neighbor named Margo Roth Spiegelman whom he has known since he was a child. Like many childhood friends, they grew apart as they got older, even though they had a very intense childhood experience of finding a man dead in a park at the very beginning of the novel. Now, however, while Quentin is quite your average high schooler, Margo Roth Spiegelman is decidedly un-average and hangs out with the beautiful and popular people. She has a popular boyfriend. Then one night a couple weeks before graduation, she slips into Quentin's bedroom and convinces him to take his mom's minivan and drive her around creating mayhem, mostly related to retaliating against her friends for a recent wrong that was done to her, but also including some other adventures just for Quentin and/or Margo Roth Spiegelman's sake(s), such as breaking into Sea World. The following day, Quentin has the natural reaction of wondering how/if this night will change his relationship with Margo Roth Spiegelman. But . . . she disappears! This isn't all that unusual, though, since we find out from her parents that she has done this before. And when she has done this before, she has left obscure clues as to where she was going and expected her parents to figure them out and find her. They are tired of these games and don't even attempt to try to look for her. Quentin, on the other hand, is not only attracted to and worried about her (she has shown some serious signs of suicide/depression recently), but he finds a glaring clue on her window shade that leads him to another series of clues as to her whereabouts. He isn't sure if he's on the right track, let alone whether MRS is even alive or intended for him to follow the clues, but he pursues the potential clues anyway in the hopes of finding her alive.

So that is the plot. The novel reminded me of a quotation that I wrote down in college because it seemed so viscerally true to me (sorry I don't remember the source anymore). It's by Jane Mansbridge and Susan Moller Okin: "We construct ourselves in part through the narratives we create about our lives." I don't feel like I can really explain it in relation to Paper Towns too much without giving away the ending, but if I were (for some reason) writing a paper about it, I think that would be the basis of my thesis. If/when you read the novel, think of this quotation particularly when you read the metaphor discussion. The metaphors you choose are really important.

My favorite scene in the novel is when Quentin cleans out his locker at the end of the school year. I felt really moved by how true-to-life it seemed and how ambivalent that time of your life can be, as well as how something so mundane can be the kind of event that, while you may not expect it, ends up really affecting you in a significant way.

And while this doesn't really have anything to do with the poignancy I felt in that scene, can I tell you how fascinating lockers are at the end of the school year? I never thought about this as a student (one who dutifully cleaned out her locker each year when they told you to), but as a teacher, my eyes were opened to a whole fascinating world of post-school-year locker sociology. At the end of the school year, the custodians go around and open up all the lockers so they can come by and easily clean them out. This is fascinating. Students leave so much stuff in there! On the one hand, it is kind of sad because students will leave things like tons of perfectly good school supplies, some that may have never even been used or opened. I have often thought it is a huge waste and something that would be great for charity. On another hand, you have really interesting items like empty alcohol bottles. I'm sure I am/was just naive, but who brings the actual alcohol bottle to school and just leaves it in their locker?

(I also thought more than once as I read this book: John Green seems to like writing about average high school boys who have a thing for unconventional, independent high school girls who intrigue them.)

The Host

A couple of weeks ago, I opened my front door and discovered a package on my stoop. I opened it to discover an advance copy of The Host by Stephenie Meyer. I cannot even begin to tell you how excited I was to read this book. So excited, that I took it to school with me and read it while my students were testing. And I continued to read it late into the night until I finished. This book is that compelling.

Basically, The Host is about a kind and gentle alien species who have to inhabit the bodies of others in order to survive. In this case, they have to inhabit the bodies of humans, or "hosts" as the call them. Unfortunately (or fortunately) some humans aren't so willing to relinquish all control of their bodies.

I have to say, I am not a fan of science fiction. With the exception of Scott Westerfeld, I pretty much never read it. But, just as Twilight isn't your normal vampire fiction, The Host isn't your average science fiction. I loved the plot. And I loved the romance that was so smoothly woven into the story line. I think all of Meyer's Twilight fans will love this book, but I also think it will garner her a whole new fan base as well.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Airhead by Meg Cabot

I received an advance copy of Airhead a couple of months ago, but was asked not to review it until May when the book was going to be released. Of course, that didn't stop me from reading it as soon as it reached my fingertips. And let me tell you, this book? Awesome. I want to tell you all about it and describe what happens to the main character (Emerson. Cool name, right?), but every time I start I feel like I am giving away the mystery. You'll see what I mean when you read it. Something major happens to Emerson almost right away, an accident, and she wakes up in a hospital a totally different person. But I can't tell you anything else from there. Just trust me, you'll like it. And, even better, it is going to be a series! I can't wait til the next one comes out.

**OK, sorry, this has got to be the most poorly written review ever. Wait until you see how I butcher my review of Stephenie Meyer's new novel, The Host!**