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Month in Review: May 2017

What happened in YA this month? Here is a quick round up of featured posts on The Hub and other links to keep you up to date when collecting for your teens.

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Booklist: Gods, Princes, and Ancient Rome in Historical Fiction

Exploration has been on the minds of humanity since the beginning of time. Whether it is discovering a new star, landing on a new continent, or making scientific breakthroughs, exploring the world has piqued the curiosity of men and women for ages. Perhaps this is why I find the historical fiction genre so satisfying. I was (and still am) enthralled with the ability to pick up a book and find myself in a different place on Earth, fighting for survival on the Titanic, seeing women’s suffrage in the early 1900’s, or attending a magical boarding school in Victorian England.

Historical fiction is not only entertaining, but it promotes listening to and understanding multiple perspectives. Oftentimes, history is portrayed as one-sided and flat: events transpired and results occurred. However, in a good historical fiction plot, we see the protagonist handling conflict, weighing different points of view, and examining the complex nature of issues at hand.

While there is no way I could definitively state which time period or location is my favorite to read about, I have chosen a few young adult novels that will take you back in time to Ancient Rome! The following novels are so exciting that you can practically hear the clash of steel and feel the hot desert sand sting your face.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa TahirAn Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Possibly my favorite book of 2015, Sabaa Tahir’s debut novel has been taking the world of YA literature by storm. Originally published without concrete plans for a sequel, Tahir’s novel is set in the Martial Empire- a brutal, fight-or-die empire inspired by Ancient Rome. The novel follows two protagonists from opposite sides of this empire’s spectrum. Laia is a lowly Scholar whose brother is captured by Martial soldiers for conspiring against the empire. Determined to rescue the only family she has left, Laia risks everything to go undercover and spy on the Commandant, the brutal head of the Martial military, in exchange for her brother’s freedom. Elias is an elite member of the Martial military, the Masks, endowed with special rights and powers to use for the empire’s benefit. However, he did not choose this journey and instead longs for his own freedom. As Laia and Elias’ paths cross, they realize that freedom will be much more difficult to attain than they thought. With the rapid popularity that this novel has received, a sequel has been confirmed for this series. Continue reading Booklist: Gods, Princes, and Ancient Rome in Historical Fiction

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Pairing Music with YA Lit: “Give a Little Love” Edition

“With the right music you either forget everything or you remember everything”–Unknown

Music is always around us, linking moments, people, and emotions to songs, genres, and artists that become special to us.  We carry our memories through a song’s lyrics, through the beat of a track, or just through that “feeling” a special song gives us.  Classic rock to bring back memories of an old crush. Anything by The Backstreet Boys to remember a particular summer.  “Paris” by Magic Man to remember a little one’s first dance moves.  We each have our own personal “soundtrack”; a mental playlist that might have a few special tracks, or more songs than there is room for on an iPhone.

You find yourself in music.

YA lit has the same effect.  Just as you can find yourself in a song, you can find yourself in the pages, in the characters, within a book.  So, why not join the two together?  YA authors have often used music in their stories–punk rock songs in Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist; or the intro/outro music for Seth’s podcasts in Seth Baumgartner’s Love Manifesto.

Given this, I decided to challenge myself (and my own knowledge of music and YA lit) by pairing YA novels with possible song counterparts.  Not all of us hear music the same way, just as not all of us see the books we read the same way, so these posts to The Hub are my interpretation of both.

And I’m very excited to start with a few recent titles which feature stories of love that overcome some pretty big obstacles.

every_last_wordEvery Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone (2015)

Summary: At the beginning of her junior year, Samantha must leave behind the relaxed, confident, happy “Summer Sam” she becomes when she is away from her popular group of friends, the Crazy Eights.  To the Eights she is “Samantha”–a follower who maintains her role within the group in worry that they will kick her out.  Especially if they found out about how she suffers from Pure-O (thought obsessed) OCD.  To ease a panic attack, Sam finds a quiet place to control her thoughts.  In doing so, Sam is led to Poet’s Corner, a hidden room where a group of students secretly share their poetry.  This opens up Sam’s world to new friends, to writing poetry, and to AJ, a boy she tormented as “Samantha” but falls in love with as “Sam.”  Through Sam’s writing, AJ sees the person that Sam has become, instead of the person she was with the Eights, and helps her through some difficult times.

Musical pairings:

Samantha actually creates some pretty great playlists throughout the novel with artists like Adele and The Shins.  But as I read Every Last Word I kept thinking: Imagine Dragons.  Particularly a few tracks off their “Smoke & Mirrors” album.  “Polaroid” seems to fit Samantha’s anxiety well, especially her thought spirals (Can’t slow down/ I’m a rolling freight train), and the beginnings of her relationship with AJ (I’m a hold my cards close/ I’m a wreck what I love most).  But Samantha is also plagued by guilt that she feels due to her association with the Eights; that’s where “Shots” comes in (I’m sorry for everything/ Oh, everything I’ve done).  “Trouble” is another Imagine Dragons song that describes how much Samantha wants to be “Sam” (I looked a little lost at sea/ I keep trying to find me).

Continue reading Pairing Music with YA Lit: “Give a Little Love” Edition

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