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Author: Sarah Wethern

Popular Paperbacks: Books to Write Home About

From Flickr user CDaisyM.
As a reader, I love edgy books. Titles that toe the line or cross it altogether in subject matter can bring on the greatest reading thrills. Give me an author who is willing to be adventuresome and not stick with the status quo on a subject matter. Sometimes these books can be a bit too much in terms of swearing or sex, but this is definitely not always the case and this is why Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults needs YOUR help for the final category for this year’s list.

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Popular Paperbacks: Gowns, Greasepaint and Guitars!

Do you love the arts? Have you been busy devouring books set at boarding schools? Well if so, you really need to consider nominating a title for YALSA’s Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults list.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be discussing the four new categories that make up this year’s PPYA lists. But first, some information about Popular Paperbacks. This is a list that is focuses on titles that are widely available in paperback and encourage teens to read for pleasure. Literary quality, while a fine addition to any PPYA nominated title, is not the first consideration. Rather, these are books that truly fit the idea of popular: that is, something anyone would pick up for pleasure and fun. PPYA is all about the fun, and every year it tries to tackle topics that are current and relevant to readers’ lives. The Hub has been a big supporter of PPYA, doing several posts about PPYA lists they would like to see revisited. Maybe in the future, you’ll see similar topics popping up again. And now, onto the first theme for today’s discussion.

Gowns, Greasepaint and Guitars: not the same old song and dance

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Books featuring sugar and spice and everything nice…delicious desserts!

In my free time, between work, friends, reading, and life in general, I really thoroughly enjoy baking. It’s a great stress reliever and my coworkers always seem a little bit happier when I bring in cookies or great bread the next day. I totally admit to having a sweet tooth, but I also don’t want to be overloaded on a sugar 24/7! Fortunately, there are plenty of great YA books out there that fill my craving for sugar and give me some fun stories along the way! Here is just a sampling of (mostly) fictional titles to get your taste buds tingling.

Heather Hepler has two books that fit the bill! Her most recent book, Love? Maybe, is all about a teen girl named Piper who is very cynical about love. She was born on Valentine’s Day and to say she is not impressed by the sweet sentiments of guys is an understatement. She does have one talent that makes her the perfect Valentine’s Day girl, though, and that is her unique ability to create amazing chocolate candies and concoctions. This book will have your mouth watering as you read about how Piper pairs chocolate with crazy ingredients to maybe, just maybe, win the heart of the guy next door. And don’t forget another Heather Hepler title: The Cupcake Queen. The cupcake trend may finally be dying out a bit, but this book is still as sweet as can be.

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Interview with Allan Wolf, author of The Watch That Ends the Night: Voices from the Titanic

With the one hundredth anniversary of the doomed Titanic just days away, The Hub is very excited to bring you an interview with author Allan Wolf. His most recent book, The Watch That Ends the Night: Voices from the Titanic is a thoughtful portrayal of the human side of the Titanic. After all, it is not really a ship that continues to fascinate people the world over; rather, it is the human lives lost in the Titanic that capture our hearts. If you haven’t had the chance to read Mr. Wolf’s new book, hopefully this will entice you to do so!

The Watch That Ends the Night: Voices from the Titanic is a distinctly different way of looking at the Titanic experience. Why did you choose to use poetry to bring the characters to life?

I used poetry in The Watch That Ends the Night because I am a poet. That’s the quick answer. All my books are poetry. So when I have a longer narrative project I just do it the way that comes most naturally. I began experimenting with multiple narrators in my verse novel about Lewis and Clark, New Found Land. I also started including sound effects and stage directions within the text. My background as a performance poet may have motivated me to let the words play on the page as much as I was able to play with them on stage. Poetry lends itself to this type of visual and textual experimentation–more so than prose.

The research invested in this book is thorough and fascinating. What was your favorite part of the research process?

I love the process of research. I read far more adult non-fiction history books than young adult fiction. The research is where The Watch That Ends the Night was born. I spent an entire year just figuring out who, from among the over 2000 people on board, would be my characters. I knew nothing of the Titanic when I started, so my learning curve was … well … titanic! I’m not afraid to launch into a subject I know nothing about, because sometimes it can be an advantage NOT to be an expert with all the answers. The most brilliant ideas can result from answering the most stupid questions.

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Busting through reader burnout

by flickr user miss jo
Reader burnout. It happens to the best of us. It’s happening to me right now. If I have to read another dystopian book, I think I will throw it against the wall. That’s not helpful at all because I know there still are some really interesting dystopian books being published, but for this reader, I’m spent. And the sad thing is, dystopian books are just gearing up. With the wide success of The Hunger Games (book and movie), this is a trend that will not die down any time soon. So what is a reader supposed to do? It is hard to appreciate all the great qualities of a story if you have that “been there, done that” feeling. So, what do you do?

I know for me, when it happened after Twilight and the paranormal rush on the publishing market, I took a long break from any paranormal YA titles. They all became one and the same to me in my mind, and unless there was truly a standout book, frankly, I didn’t want to read anything vampire-, werewolf-, or angel-related. And if you forced another love triangle on me, well, the results were not pretty.

The easiest and probably most customary solution for many readers is to switch books.


And the winner is…

It’s my favorite time of the year! The 84th Academy Awards are set to take place on Sunday, February 26 on ABC and I cannot wait. If you haven’t had the chance yet, be sure to take a look at all the talented actors, actresses, producers, directors, and more nominated this year. While I don’t consider myself a tried and true movie buff, I definitely watch my fair share of movies, from really bad movies with awful graphics to the silly and cartoonish. There’s something exciting about seeing my favorite celebrities all decked out in their finest, about moaning and groaning through the overly long speeches, and wondering how they are going to dramatize the “in remembrance” portion of the evening. Yep, I’m an Oscars junkie and proud of it!

If you’re anything like me, you may be interested in reading some fun teen lit that focuses on the glitz and glamour of the movies and celebrities. There are a plethora of great titles out there so read on to find out some of the highlights and be sure to add your own suggestions in the comments! Perhaps you want to make an Oscar themed book display or have an Oscar YA party. These books will help you bring on your own inner star.

YALSA’s Popular Paperbacks list is a great place to start. The 2009 Fame and Fortune list is a great resource to “read all about teens aspiring to make it big.” This list focuses on several of the talents celebrities are famous for including acting, music, and modeling. And to add to that great YALSA list, be sure to check out the 2012 Fabulous Films for Young Adults: Song and Dance list. Combining books and movies is always a winning combination for any movie buff.


Chase away those winter blahs with some romance!

Winter is here! I am one of those rare breeds who actually love winter, and it’s not because I love getting out in the cold. There’s just something wonderful about being able to snuggle in with a good book, some hot chocolate, and a blanket when it’s bitterly cold outside that invigorates me. And lucky for readers, there are so many excellent books that will take away those winter blues. For this reader in particular, I happen to adore a good love story in winter. Maybe it’s because Valentine’s Day is already being pushed onto us (have you seen the candy aisles at your local stores?) or maybe it’s because love is the perfect antidote to those cold winter days. Who knows! In any case, here are some of my favorite teen romances to push away those winter blues.

There is, of course, no shortage of YA writers who include romance in their books. It’s what I love about young adult lit so much, that it is about relationships, whether romances or not. Of course, I do happen to enjoy a book that makes my heart go pitter-patter a bit, and these authors and their books definitely do that!

Jenny Han’s fabulous Summer series (The Summer I Turned Pretty, It’s Not Summer Without You, and We’ll Always Have Summer) is one of my absolute favorite go-to series for romance. Belly is in love with two boys and while readers know how boring the love triangle can get, Jenny Han also knows this and shows just how complex being in love can be. Belly (you’ll have to read to understand the nickname) is a fabulous character.

Stephanie Perkins is becoming a name-brand for well written teen romances. Anna and the French Kiss recently became a finalist in the Young Adult Fiction category of the Cybils (Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards). This is a book that has gotten a lot of press and buzz and it lives up to the hype! France, a boarding school, a cute guy with an accent, and a strong female character? It’s a win/win! The second book, very loosely connected, Lola and the Boy Next Door, also has a great romance at its center. If you haven’t read Stephanie Perkins yet, what are you waiting for?


Morris Award Finalist: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Septys

The 2012 Morris Award finalists were just announced last week and it is yet another outstanding year for debut YA writers. The best part is that there is a little bit of everything in the selection: something for the paranormal readers, something for historical fans, and some great things for readers of contemporary YA literature. Here are the finalists:

  • The Girl of Fire and Thorns, written by Rae Carson and published by Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
  • Paper Covers Rock, written by Jenny Hubbard and published by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books.
  • Under the Mesquite, written by Guadalupe Garcia McCall and published by Lee and Low Books
  • Between Shades of Gray, written by Ruta Sepetys and published by Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group USA.
  • Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley, published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing.
  • As a librarian, I have some work to do myself on reading a few of these titles still, but I cannot wait. I’ve come to expect excellent quality of writing and storytelling when it comes to the Morris Award, and my favorite on this list is no different. I love WWII and Holocaust-era historical fiction. It was my favorite time period of history to study in college (I was a History and English major so I got the best of both worlds). It is no surprise to me that Ruta Sepetys’s heartbreaking and thorough look at the forced relocation of thousands of Lithuanians is on this list.

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