Good morning, Hub readers!
Last week, we asked you to weigh in on the most believable post-apocalyptic world depicted in YA lit. 42% of you are probably heading to the grocery store to stock up on your canned goods, because you voted for Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Life As We Knew It. Paolo Bacigalupi’s Ship Breaker garnered 23% of the vote, followed by Ashfall by Mike Mullin, with 17%. You can see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive. Thanks to all of you who voted!
This week’s poll is all about character names. Authors can have a lot of fun with names, and sometimes we see fictional characters bearing monikers that are rather, ah, unusual. Names we’re unlikely to come across in real life– though, of course, sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. So we want to know: what’s your favorite unusual or implausible character name in YA lit? Vote in the poll below, or add your choice in the comments if we missed it.
I really wasn’t sure what to expect from R. L. Stine’s speech, the closing (dare I say, crowning?) event of YALSA’s (awesome!) 2014 YA Literature Symposium. Would he scare us? This seemed unlikely, as it’s not really the traditional mode for keynote speakers to terrify their audience, but from a bestselling horror author, who knew? I just knew I was pumped to see the writer who had fueled so many of the nightmares of my adolescence, in the flesh. I was surprised (but definitely amused) when he opened with a self-deprecatingly hilarious quip about a recent interaction with a fan, in which the admirer asked, “Can I get a picture with you? My kids all think you’re dead!” This was followed with the equally humble and hilarious recounting of the time someone came up to him to say, “Did anyone ever tell you you look like R.L. Stine? No offense.”
He continued by sharing fan letters both hilarious and charming, and demonstrating in person his wonderful sense of humor. He told us that his first dream was to run a comedy magazine; and he did! It was called Bananas (I felt like a pretty subpar fan when one of my work colleagues was not only totally unsurprised by this, but had had a subscription to Bananas!). He shared that his son told him Morgan Freeman should play him in the upcoming Goosebumps movie, and that when he floated the idea of playing himself onscreen to his wife, she told him he’s too old. The role went to Jack Black, and Stine assured us that all the monsters are in the film (which comes out next summer).
I read a lot of horror when I myself was a teenager. All the Fear Street I could get my hands on. So imagine my delight when my seat turned out to have one of the golden tickets (er…yellow standard raffle-style ticket). The prize was pretty much as good as getting to tour a chocolate factory, too; I got an advance copy of the next Fear Street novel, due out in April 2015, called Don’t Stay Up Late)! read more…
I began the first full day at the 2014 Young Adult Literature Symposium with a session that perfectly suited this year’s “Keeping It Real” theme. Titled “YA Realness: What Makes ‘Contemporary Realism’ Feel True To Readers?” this Saturday morning session featured a self-moderated panel of established authors discussing a range of topics related to contemporary realistic fiction for young adults, including the genre’s authenticity, controversial topics, writing craft, and continued appeal to teens.
In many cases, a panel without a formal moderator could go horribly wrong, but the excellent crew of authors in this particular session instead created a casual and very thoughtful conversation about many aspects of contemporary realism. Matt de la Pena, Coe Booth, Sara Zarr, Sara Ryan, and Jo Knowles are all authors well-known for their varied, popular, and critically acclaimed works of contemporary realistic fiction written for and about young adults.
Sara Zarr started the session off by getting right to the most basic but unavoidable question: “How do you define ‘contemporary realism?” She broke the ice by offering her own, excellent definition of the genre as a story that takes place more or less in the present in which nothing happens that could not feasibly happen in our world and nothing occurs that might violate the space-time continuum. The other panelists chimed in, mentioning their emphases on honesty, emotional truth, and grittiness. Matt de la Pena shared his usual response to questions concerning his preference for realistic fiction over fantasy: “I am so infatuated with the real world that I don’t go there [to supernatural creatures, etc.] creatively….you all have great stories in your lives, you just think they’re normal.” read more…
I don’t read as much horror as I probably should, since it’s very popular with a lot of teen readers. So, I was very happy to attend this YA Literature Symposium session presented by the two Paulas (Paula Willey and Paula Gallagher) both from Baltimore (MD) County Public Library. Not only did I hear about some horror books I wasn’t familiar with, I also won a scary shark t-shirt! Thanks to their generosity, lots of us in the audience got prizes of galleys of YA books, and everyone got creepy body part shaped candy and packets of Old Bay Seasoning (Why? Because it’s made in Baltimore).
I can’t describe their presentation any better than they did:
“Teens of all types gravitate to horror fiction – perfectly nice kids with perfectly comfortable lives (as well as perfectly nice kids with difficult lives) seek out books by Darren Shan, Alexander Gordon Smith, Jeyn Roberts and the like. In our presentation, we will make the link between the psychological developments that characterize coming of age and the metaphors of horror, and argue that just because it’s all in your head, that doesn’t mean it’s not real.”
They mentioned that teens who like horror are nostalgic for series they read as kids like the Goosebumps series, Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories, or David Lubar’s Weenies series. Teens today are cutting their teeth on new horror TV shows, and films, even foreign ones like Let the Right One In and are big consumers of media, especially horror series like The Vampire Diaries.
Paula Willey explained why it’s important that we understand why teens like horror:
1. We may need to overcome our own revulsion; people who don’t like it don’t understand the appeal.
2. Horror is unusually good at shining a light on concerns of adolescents in ways other types of fiction do not. Horror is a window into their worries.
They also said that issues of morality can be explored in horror. Alexander Gordon Smith can talk abut good vs. evil in his Escape the Furnace series and get away with it. I had to laugh when they showed a slide from their PowerPoint stating that adolescent development is characterized by poor decision making; risk-taking; and a changing sense of identity and the image on screen was a photo of Bella and Edward from the Twilight movie.
Happy Friday, everyone! We’re here to catch you up on what you might have missed on Twitter this week. Lots of good observations from #yalit14!
Books and Reading
- @malindalo: It seems to me that the unofficial theme for #yalit14 is #WeNeedDiverseBooks :)
- @librainiac: “Literature shows that other people suffer more than you do.” — @EvanJRoskos about cultivating empathy & being better people #yalit14
- @LEEandLOW: Here’s why the National Book Award thing is about more than just one joke: http://blog.leeandlow.com/2014/11/20/what-daniel-handlers-national-book-award-comments-say-about-publishing/ …
- @CBCBook: The year’s best books for science classrooms, chosen by science educators http://bit.ly/1t1zkLk @NSTA #kidlit #yalit
After a slight break to feature various spooky monsters, I’m heading back to the ship “Serenity” to finish off a few more characters. I promised you all I would not leave you hanging. Back in September I told you all about the crew of “Serenity.” The comments section hit on an obvious title that I overlooked so I wanted to make sure that it was added. Blog reader Shari said that Kaylee would also love Cinder by Marissa Meyer. After I read that comment, I mentally kicked myself and I’m not ashamed to say it hurt a bit. Of course Kaylee would love the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer! Not only is it futuristic, it’s set in a world where Chinese influences run abundantly…just like Kaylee’s world. Also, with as much as she likes to take apart and fix “Serenity,” she would love a story where cyborgs run freely. Great suggestion! I just wish I thought of it first. :P
Ok, back to the ship.
Inara Serra – Inara is a very proper lady by those viewing her merely for her profession. A companion is basically a fancy prostitute and Inara holds her head up high at the prestige she gains. However, we witness every episode a subconscious, or sometimes very conscious, desire for real love. Her schoolyard relationship with Mal makes the audience cheer for their snarky exteriors to melt away and their true romantic feelings to take the lead. That is why I believe that Inara would love books that regard strong female characters in a positive light, but still has a bit of romance. I would recommend The Selection by Kiera Cass to Inara particularly because America stands tall with her convictions instead of following the crowd of wannabee princesses. The romance is there, but it’s America who decides to whom those romantic tendencies will flourish. In a similar vein, I would slip Inara Academy 7 by Anne Osterlund. This title is a bit more romance, but the secrets kept by the main characters definitely taking center stage over the romance from time to time. And I believe that Inara’s secrets are fairly unmatched. read more…
On Saturday afternoon at the 2014 YA Literature Symposium, I attended the presentation entitled Reaching Reluctant Readers: from Creation to Circulation. The speakers were Patrick Jones, a librarian and author based in Minnesota, and Zack Moore from the Austin Independent School District in Texas.
The presentation focused on why reluctant readers aren’t reading, qualities of good book recommendations for reluctant readers, how to ease in-library access, examples of what reluctant readers will read, and things that you can do to reach reluctant readers of tomorrow. One point to mention here is that both speakers stressed the importance of remembering that reluctant readers may be aliterate, not illiterate. There is a big difference between approaching a teen who can read, but chooses not to and a teen who cannot read.
I have listed a few examples from each section below. The full presentation can be found here if you wish to read more.
Why They Aren’t Reading read more…
Quinn is fourteen years old in 1971, living in Laurel Canyon, California. Rock music is just hitting its stride, and Quinn is obsessed. He writes a column, “For What It’s Worth,” that’s filled with rock ‘n roll minutiae. But rock never did exist in a vacuum. Like the blues, it was born of creative and political need, as Quinn begins to realize when a draft dodger shows up at his house.
The book is loaded with music. It would be far simpler to make a playlist than to select one song, one musician. But Quinn makes reference to “Club 27,” which has been a theme for Jukebooks lately. It’s a bit prescient for Quinn to speak of Club 27, since it wasn’t really a thing in 1971. (I would know; I was fourteen in 1971.) But it presents an opportunity to write about Brian Jones.
Jones is the Rolling Stone you never hear about. He’s the one who recruited the band members and chose the band’s name. He introduced the Jimi Hendrix Experience at the Monterey Pop Festival. Through it all, he took drugs. The descent is sadly familiar: erratic behavior, arrests, fighting with the other band members. In 1969, Jones was asked to leave the band, eventually replaced by Mick Taylor.
Below is a montage of Brian Jones images, accompanied by the Rolling Stones’s “Last Time.” Jones played the guitar riff heard in the recording.
Diane Colson, currently reading Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty by Christine Heppermann.
Traditional western novels denote a sense of the “Old West” as defined as a time period of American history from about the 17th century to the early 20th century where new settlers dealt with the harsh landscape, lawlessness, and/or the loner who exacts vengeance in the name of doing what is right. For westerns that are written for teens, however, they don’t always follow all the typical western tropes, but most commonly some of these themes are paired with the main character or characters coming of age through the story.
Authors to Know
There aren’t many authors who are well-known for writing westerns for teens, however here are some of the more well-known western authors:
- Loius L’Amour
- Zane Grey
- Larry McMurtry
- Cormac McCarthy
The setting of western novels usually deem that they be set in western America. However, westerns can take place in other geographical settings where the landscape may mimic that of the “Old West.” So, it can be a landscape where there is a search for a valuable mineral or material, or there are desolate conditions that are hard to survive, or it is a new land that settlers must figure out how to tame. Whatever the case, a richly detailed landscape is one of the main characteristics of a western novel. Also, a civilized society does not exist in most western novels, usually because the land has been uninhabited and it has yet to be developed. Traditionally, western novels are set in the time period of the “Old West,” but when it comes to western novels written for teens, they do not need to be set in a historically accurate time. They can be set in the past, alternate past, present, and even future. read more…