YALSA-bk is a listserv with lively discussions among librarians, educators, and beyond about all things YA lit. Sometimes one listserv member will ask for help finding books around a certain theme or readalikes for a particular title. This post is a compilation of responses for one such request.
The original request
One of my book clubs is looking for a good romance to read but I can’t give them “the usual suspects” (aka John Green, Huntley Fitzpatrick, Rainbow Rowell) because they’ve read all of those highly publicized ones. I’m looking for one that is off the radar, preferably paperback, that will sweep them off their feet and isn’t too brazenly in-your-face with the language and physical stuff (aka Jamie McGuire, Simone Elkeles, Katie McGarry.)
I don’t know what the weather’s like where you are, but here in southern California we’ve had some pretty hot days recently. So I thought that for this entry in my occasional Bookish Brew series, a cool summer smoothie would be more in order than a hot drink. Make that two smoothies– one for each of the narrators of Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando’s wonderful and authentic Roomies (2015 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers Nominations List).
When Roomies begins, teens Lauren and Elizabeth are a couple months away from starting their freshman year at the University of California, Berkeley. They have just received each other’s names and email addresses from the campus housing office because they have been matched as dorm roommates. Lauren lives in San Francisco, California, which is not far from the city of Berkeley. In her loving two-parent family, she is the eldest of her siblings by several years. Her responsible nature may stem partly from her heavy child-rearing responsibilities. She is somewhat shy, concerned with honesty and aims to work in scientific research. Elizabeth, also known as E.B., lives in suburban New Jersey near the Shore with her single divorced mom with whom she does not have a close relationship. Elizabeth can be overly sensitive at times and is more impulsive than Lauren, as well as more outgoing. She plans to study landscape architecture.
Initiated by Elizabeth of course, the two begin an email correspondence over the summer. They share the details of their lives and soon after their feelings and frustrations about friends, family and boyfriends. This is not an epistolary novel, however; these emails are one component of a traditional narrative. The two girls alternate narrating chapters.
Initially Lauren and Elizabeth experience a mainly positive interaction, getting a feel for each other’s personalities, leaning on each other throughout a couple situations in their personal lives and sharing the joys of their respective first loves. A misunderstanding arises, however, connected to Elizabeth’s estranged father, who lives and owns an art gallery in San Francisco. Both girls are challenged to look at the situation through the other’s eyes and decide whether reconciliation is possible. In an interview with Harvard Magazine (September-October 2014) Tara Altebrando describes how she and Sara Zarr wrote the book both separately and together over a period of three years and mentions that they are considering either a sequel or another collaborative project.
I highly recommend listening to the audiobook version of Roomies if you can, which is voiced by Becca Battoe and Emily Eiden. These two readers do an amazing job of vocally capturing the distinct rhythms and personalities of Lauren and Elizabeth, not to mention the differences in regional accents.
But now the time has come to blend! When choosing the ingredients for a “bookish brew” I consider the setting and the essential traits or qualities of the main character of a novel. As there are two quite distinct main characters in Roomies, I’ve created two smoothies. read more…
Good morning, Hub readers!
Last week, we wanted to know about your preferred mode of travel from YA lit (for your Labor Day weekend travel plans, of course). Most of you would opt for a dirigible from Gail Carriger’s Etiquette and Espionage (28% of the vote). The Panem train also proved a popular choice with 27% of the vote, though as reader Alicia noted, it’s a nice choice as long as you don’t actually have to be in Panem! You can see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive. Thanks to all of you who voted and commented!
This week sees the end of summer vacation and a return to the classrooms. That’s right, it’s back-to-school time! Which school from YA lit would you want to attend? Vote in the poll below, or add your choice in the comments.
According to many sources, August 24 is generally accepted as the day Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD and killed many thousands of people living in the city of Pompeii. This tragic story has captured people’s interest and imagination for hundreds of years. I’ve visited Pompeii and it is a haunting and fascinating site – the perfect backdrop for an historical YA book.
Initially, the only YA book that I knew about Pompeii was Curses and Smoke: A Novel of Pompeii by Vicky Alvear Shecter that came out earlier this year. In this novel, Lucia’s father, the owner of a gladiatorial school in Pompeii that needs money to expand the business, has betrothed her to a wealthy man old enough to be her grandfather. Lucia loves to read but her future husband doesn’t approve of women reading or studying. Lucia’s also interested in the world around her and its natural mysteries, like the frequent tremors and other odd phenomenon that are occurring in Pompeii. She’s in love with childhood friend & slave Tag, born of a noble family that was enslaved and stripped of its wealth. Tag’s a healer who wants to be a gladiator to earn enough money to win his freedom and escape the curse he bears. They plan to escape the city together but are betrayed to Lucia’s father by another fighter. Tag’s imprisoned by Lucia’s father just as Mt. Vesuvius is about to erupt. Will they be able to find each other again before the volcano destroys their whole world? read more…
Can you believe August is almost over? The past week on Twitter brought lots of talk about the screen adaptation of Gayle Forman’s bestselling novel If I Stay, the news that Hello Kitty might not actually be a cat, and more weighty current events– the events in Ferguson are still generating a lot of much-needed conversation. Here’s a round-up of some tweets you might have missed.
@misskubelik: We’re still book-driving for @fergusonlibrary’s kid/YA section. Please signal boost this link to the SECOND list https://www.powells.com/cgi-bin/wishlist?email=booksforferguson%40gmail.com&list=More%20Books%20For%20Ferguson …
- @JensBookPage: Lois Lane Is Your New YA Fiction Hero | @THR on upcoming #yalit book by @Gwenda http://ow.ly/APYCD via @PWKidsBookshelf
- @stevelibrarian: If you ever wonder why comic books relaunch with a new #1 so often… http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/comics/article/63753-how-s-marvel-now-working-out.html …
@BethRevis: I can always tell from tweets where people are in SHADES OF EARTH. #trustme #keepreading
- @infodocket: Coming Soon: New Version of OverDrive’s App (iOS, Android, Win) Will Not Require Adobe Authorization http://ow.ly/AN1Qi #ebooks
- @CeceBellBooks: El Deafo Extras: From outline to finished product http://wp.me/pjDXi-wQ
- @CypressParkLAPL: Classic first lines of famous novels via emoji! How many can you recognize? Some of them were kinda tricky. http://fb.me/6XTvbWnKS
“Don’t judge a book by its cover.” It is one of the most common cliches in existence. And yet, during my trip to the UK this summer, I found myself doing just that. Books that I had already seen in the U.S. (or in some cases, already owned) looked so much more appealing with the covers that were designed for the UK. This made me ask several questions:
- Why were different covers designed for the UK and the U.S., particularly given that the text itself was almost always identical?
- What was it about the UK design sensibility that I liked?
- Was I alone in my preference?
- And, of course most importantly, how many books could I reasonably bring back in my suitcase? read more…
Check out previous interviews in the One Thing Leads to Another series here.
I remember sitting in the audience at the 2007 Michael L. Printz Award ceremony at the ALA Annual Conference in Washington D.C. and waiting a little more impatiently, and with a little more anticipation than normal, for the program to start. There were a couple of reasons for this, sure, but in large part it was because I couldn’t wait to hear what Gene Luen Yang had to say. I’d just read American Born Chinese, the first ever graphic novel to be awarded the Printz, and, like the committee, was blown away by the combination of social commentary, Chinese mythology, and American pop culture. Plus, as an ardent fan of comics and graphic novels, I was really thrilled to see his work recognized.
His speech was so worth waiting for. Not only did it educate and entertain, it also surprised me (“Two years ago, I photocopied and stapled individual chapters of American Born Chinese to sell by the dozen at comic book conventions, usually to personal friends or my mom. Today, I’m standing here in front of you.” Seriously?!) and offered one of my favorite library-related warnings: “You librarians are all that stand in the way of the entire world turning into one big, no-holds-barred MySpace discussion board.” I highly recommend you read the entire speech.
Since then I’ve snapped up each new work, and I know I’m not alone. Boxers and Saints? I mean, wow. Just so freaking good. And now we have The Shadow Hero, which is so cool in every direction and way possible. If you haven’t yet, go read them. Probably now.
Thank you so much, Gene, for taking the time to talk to me and for your good humor and thoughtfulness. I’ve been waiting a little more impatiently, and with a little more anticipation than normal, for this interview.
Always Something There to Remind Me
Please describe your teenage self.
I was a standard-issue nerd. I had asthma. My nose was always stuffed up. I read comic books and programmed computers. I couldn’t catch a ball to save my life.
What did you want to be when you grew up? Why?
When I was really little, I wanted to be a Disney animator. I loved stories and I loved drawing. Animation seemed like a natural way to bring them together.
After I began collecting comics in the fifth grade, I felt torn. Did I want to become an animator or a comic book creator? I eventually drifted towards comics. I wasn’t old enough to know that the animation industry offered things like regular paychecks and health insurance, but I could still sense my parents’ disappointment. They weren’t all that thrilled about my dream of becoming an animator, but when I told them I wanted to be a cartoonist? Man. I might as well have kicked my old man in the stomach.
What were your high school years like?
Overall, I was pretty happy in high school. Sure, I had my share of sleepless nights. I got stressed out about grades and romance and finding my place in the world. I experienced the crushing oppression of the high school social hierarchy. I suffered bouts of crippling self-doubt.
But when I think back to those years, I remember the fun. I remember hanging out with my friends, playing mahjong late into the night. I remember being really proud of this t-shirt design I did for school. And I remember making the pilgrimage to our local comic book store every Friday to check out that week’s releases.
Mr. Matsuoka, who taught me computer science, had a huge influence on me. He was a great teacher, but he was also my first Asian American male teacher—really, my first Asian American male role model. He had a dignity about him that made you trust him. He spoke with authority. I remember feeling really comfortable in his class, like I belonged, but not knowing why. I had an easier time speaking up and asking questions in his classroom than anywhere else on campus. read more…
This post is a reader’s response to a book read for the 2014 Hub Reading Challenge.
I had been intrigued by Marcus Sedgwick’s Midwinterblood since I first found out about it. The title combined with the cover conjured up images in my head of witches dancing in the moonlight or ancient cults performing rites of sacrifice cloaked in secrecy. I knew immediately that I had to get my hands on this book, had to dive into what I hoped would be a chilling tale of horror and the supernatural.
I often borrow books from the library instead of buy, and I eagerly anticipated the day that my library would add a copy of this book to the collection. I was overjoyed when that day finally arrived and the book I had wanted to read was finally in my hands. My initial reaction was that the book was much shorter than I had expected, and I dreaded reading through it too fast, reaching the end, and having to move on to something else.
As I dived in, I was immediately struck by Sedgwick’s use of language. He writes so vividly that I could see the island in my mind, could map its pathways, cliffs, and ports. I often found myself interrupting whatever my roommate was doing to read a sentence or paragraph out loud to her. I couldn’t get enough descriptions of the island’s flowers, inhabitants, and landscapes. No wonder the inhabitants called the island Blessed. In fact, I found the descriptions of the simplicity and beauty of the island so compelling and real that I wanted to visit the island for myself.
Thank goodness I couldn’t! An island of peace and serenity this was not, contrary to all outward appearances. As I worked my way through the plot, through each story and historical period that Sedgwick chose to include, I found myself chilled and puzzled. I spent plenty of time trying to figure out the mysteries of the island myself. Why were there no children? Why didn’t the inhabitants of Blessed ever age? What was the significance of the dragon flowers? Ultimately, though, I had to bow to Sedgwick’s masterful storytelling and simply let myself be pulled along by the plot. It was a delightful journey, steeped in history, mythology, and mystery.
And that ending! In a final story that threw back the curtain on the island’s mysteries, brought clarity to our heroes, and catapulted readers back to the present, everything came together. As I flipped the final page and closed the book, I was left in a sort of shell-shocked state. It took me quite a while to digest what had happened, make peace with it, and be able to move on to another novel.
Most of the books I read for YALSA’s Hub Challenge were books I wouldn’t normally pick up. I didn’t enjoy a lot of them, and I wouldn’t really recommend them to my friends. But Midwinterblood? A new favorite, one that I could read again and again. It changed me, left me different. So thanks for the introduction!
-Jancee L. Wright
Books and reading have been integral to my identity essentially my entire life. My parents read to me since infancy and my status as a bibliophile has been established nearly as long. We have a fairly infamous home video featuring my toddler self pulling all the books off the shelves in my room and then fiercely babbling at them the way another child might instruct toys. Even now I will occasionally refer to favorite books by their main characters’ first names and I have been known to reprimand characters out loud while reading a particularly tense scene. I have always viewed the world through a sort of double vision—there’s my ‘real’ life and then there’s my life in fiction. The fictional characters and stories surrounding me have been just as influential ‘real life’ people and experiences. Unsurprisingly, many of the reading experiences with the strongest memories attached to them are connected to fantasy fiction. Here are a few of the fantasy novels that have now become part of my story.
The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling (listed on various annual Best Books for Young Adults lists)
Like so many people of my generation, Harry Potter was and always will be a huge part of my reading history. I read the first book in middle school, just a few years after it was first published in the U.S. and preceded to read all the subsequent novels, growing up alongside the characters. I’ve spent an incalculable number of hours reading & rereading the novels, engaging in passionate conversations (and arguments) with fellow fans, or reading fanfiction featuring favorite characters. I’ve found that in times of stress or anxiety, I turn to my trusty Harry Potter audiobooks and inevitably find both comfort and inspiration in joining Harry, Hermione, & Ron on their journeys.
I cannot actually recall exactly when I first read these complex and incredibly rich fantasy novels, especially since I’ve re-read them several times since. However sometime in late middle or early high school I was first introduced to Lyra Belacqua and her alternative world–and I’ve been a little bit in love ever since. These novels are multifaceted and intricate; every time I revisit them, I discover new details and layers. During my senior year of college, I wrote a paper exploring the connection between John Milton’s portrayal of Eve in his epic poem Paradise Lost and Lyra’s role as a ‘new Eve’ in The Amber Spyglass. While I enjoyed writing many papers during college, there were few I found as satisfying as that one.
The Song of The Lioness quartet, The Immortals series, and more by Tamora Pierce (2013 Margaret A. Edwards Award)
I read my first Tamora Pierce novel in middle school, sometime in 7th or 8th grade. I have a distinct memory of completing Alanna: The First Adventure during the late hours of a sleepover; the evening had only emphasized the fact that while I wasn’t a complete outcast yet, I didn’t have any real friends. At that point in my life, my sense of self felt as tenuous and confused as my social life. But when I read about Alanna (and later Daine & Keladry), I was not only transported–I was transformed. Alanna and Pierce’s other brave, complex heroines refuse to be anyone but themselves; they embrace their strengths and pursue their dreams despite sometimes overwhelming obstacles. And when I disappeared into their world, I felt reassured that I could do the same.
My love for Tamora Pierce’s works also persisted beyond middle and high school. I made connections with friends during orientation week in college when we discovered our mutual love of these books. While working as a counselor and library assistant at my former high school’s summer ESL program, I introduced a student to the Alanna books on a hunch and was overjoyed when she devoured them. At the time I was already seriously considering going to graduate school to become a teen services librarian but that experience confirmed my decision definitively. When Tamora Pierce did an author visit to the school I now work at, it was difficult to tell who has more overwrought with excitement–me or the fans among my students!
While Tamora Pierce’s books provided lots of high fantasy action and complex female protagonists, I was always looking for more and Robin McKinley’s many novels fit the bill perfectly. The Blue Sword & The Hero and The Crown are classic high fantasy adventures and coming of age tales full of action and romance while her many fairytale re-imaginings (including Spindle’s End, Beauty, Rose Daughter, and Deerskin) are by turns whimsical, dark, and fascinating. Also, like the others on this list, they feature compelling and multifaceted heroines. They remain some of my favorite novels to this day and within the last few years I’ve happily recommended to both students and friends; just this past summer, I gave a copy of The Blue Sword to a friend as a wedding/honeymoon present.
During the winter and early spring of senior year of college, I was working on my senior thesis while also nervously awaiting news about graduate school. Amidst this perfect storm of anxiety, I picked up Graceling and Fire by Kristin Cashore. Both novels focus on highly powerful young women who are seeking not only to protect their countries but to discover truths about themselves and their destinies. I not only fell in love with Cashore’s rich character development and compelling stories, I also felt a strong personal connection with the novels. I might not possess supernatural powers or be able to save a nation but I too was struggling to discern my future and understand my own potential.
Which books have become part of your story?
-Kelly Dickinson, currently reading Killer of Enemies by Joseph Bruchac
Dimple Lala was seventeen when readers first met her in Tanuja Desai Hidier’s Born Confused (2003 Best Books for Young Adults, 2013 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults); two years later she is in college and planning a trip to India with her boyfriend, Karsh. Dimple’s sense of ancient India is rattled by the hip Bombay scene and the growing rift between traditional and modern ways. She finds that she is often seized by introspection as the timbre of New India becomes overwhelming.
One evening, Dimple and her father walk along Juhu Beach. As they overlook the Arabian Sea, Dimple’s father begins to reminisce about Dimple’s mother, the way she would sing song after song. He gently sang, Zindagi bhar nahin bhoolegi woh barsaat ki raat, a phrase from a love song that means, My whole life I’ll never forget this night of pouring rain. The song is from a popular 1960 Bollywood film romance, Barsaat Ki Raat, sung by Mohammed Rafi.
I could never forget that one rainy night.
The night when I met an unknown beauty.
I could never forget it for the rest of my life…
The clip below is the original Hindi version from the movie.
-Diane Colson, currently reading 2 A. M. At the Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino