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Author: Summer Hayes

ALA 2013: Alex Award Presentation

Alex-AWARDSWinner_lowresOne of my favorite things about attending ALA’s Annual Conference is all the fantastic author events that are available, and 2013 in Chicago did not disappoint. I went straight from YALSA’s YA Author Coffee Klatch (awesome) to the 2013 Alex Awards Presentation. This was the first time I had attended this particular program, and it was a great way to hear directly from some of the winning authors about their books and the experience of winning the award.

First up was comic artist Derf Backderf (whom we interviewed back in March), whose chilling memoir, My Friend Dahmer, chronicles his high school friendship with a classmate who would later become one of America’s worst serial killers. Backderf shared a number of images from high school that seemed freakishly prescient; one of his drawings showed Dahmer stuffed into a grocery bag, an image that meant nothing at the time but in retrospect was just, in his own words, “incredibly creepy.” Yearbook photos from which Dahmer was also blacked out of yearbook photos after a prank to sneak him into group photos was discovered — which all too clearly paralleled the neglected teen and his feelings of isolation as he became increasingly marginalized during his senior year. It was a very powerful presentation, and there were many questions from the audience, including a woman who asked Backderf’s opinion about a forthcoming YA title seen in the exhibit hall in which a teen named Jeff Jacobson realizes he has been cloned from Jeffrey Dahmer’s DNA (you can’t make this stuff up, folks).

“New Adult” Memoirs For Teens

With the recent chatter about “New Adult” literature finally subsiding and the category firmly established, at least in the publishing biz, I thought it would be a good time to start exploring. As it turns out, there are a great many memoirs these days being published by authors in their 20s. Will they cross over to a teen market? Only time will tell, but here are a few titles that certainly have plenty of appeal, especially for older teens.

Relish_coverRelish by Lucy Knisley has been receiving tons of praise, and it is by no means unwarranted as this graphic memoir is completely and utterly charming from start to finish. As the daughter of a chef and a serious gourmet, Knisley’s very essence seems to be wrapped up in food and her memories of childhood are completely intertwined with cooking and eating. Knisley tells her story with humor and warmth, and the brightly colored panels echo the joyous tone of the book. The art is simple but effective in conveying not only Knisley’s story but also the recipes she has included. With both graphic novels and cooking very popular with teens, this one will be an easy sell, especially for readers looking for a respite from the dark and dreary dystopian trend.

An Interview with Derf Backderf

Every year when YALSA’s book awards and book selections lists are announced, there are invariably a few titles that appear multiple times; the 2013 announcements were no exception. One of those books was My Friend Dahmer, a graphic novel memoir by veteran independent comic writer and illustrator Derf Backderf. In addition to receiving an Alex Award, the book was selected as a Top Ten title for both Great Graphic Novels for Teens and Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers. Derf was kind enough to let us interview him.

My Friend DahmerFirst off, congratulations on the phenomenal success of My Friend Dahmer. Did you have any idea it would make such an impact when it was published?

I was confident it would be a big book, if only I could find someone willing to publish it. I’d experimented with the story before, starting with some short stories in the mid-Nineties and then a 24-page, self-published comic book in 2002, and the reaction to these much smaller efforts was so positive that I knew, if I put together this definitive incarnation correctly, that it would be something special. Despite that confidence, I had all sorts of problems finding a publisher willing to take it on. My Friend Dahmer was, at one time or another, rejected by virtually every comix publisher in the biz. I freely admit to gloating now that it’s a bestseller.

You have been writing and drawing comic strips for 20 years. Why did you wait so long to tell this story?

Great Graphic Novels for Teens Top Ten 2013 (Part 3 of 3)

Welcome back to our third and final installment of 2013 Great Graphic Novels for Teens Top Ten. Today’s books delve into a seriously wide range of topics: the civil rights movement, canine loyalty, middle school drama (both on and off the stage), and another magnificent super hero reboot.

The Silence of our FriendsAs far as Top Ten books go, The Silence of Our Friends by Mark Long, Jim Demonakos, and Nate Powell was kind of a no-brainer. Told from the perspective of a young white boy whose family moves into an openly racist neighborhood, this semi-autobiographical story is set during the height of the Civil Rights Movement in Houston. The narrative is incredibly tense but peppered with quiet introspective moments, and the deft storytelling easily carries readers through both the personal and political stories. Nate Powell’s ink work is gorgeous and heightens the emotional undercurrents of the story without stealing the spotlight. Said one GGNFT committee member, “This book is ultimately about how difficult it is to be a good person.”

Great Graphic Novels for Teens Top Ten 2013 (Part 2 of 3)

In our first post on Great Graphic Novels for Teens’s 2013 Top Ten, we looked at the three nonfiction titles that made the list.  This week will be a little more eclectic — but no less fabulous.

Ultimate Spider-Man by Brian Bendis and Sara PichelliFirst up is one of my favorite graphic novels from 2012, Ultimate Comics Spider-man, Volume 1. I already raved about this title back in July, but we’ll take another look today, just in case you missed it. First off, readers need to know that Ultimate Comics is an alternate universe that re-imagines the original super hero stories. Remember Peter Parker, the original Spider-Man? Forget him, he’s dead. This new version of Spider-Man is about high school kid from Brooklyn named Miles Morales who — you guessed it — is bitten by a weird spider and soon begins to exhibit some very strange abilities. This title was a committee favorite from the beginning because of its complex story, Miles’s realistic internal struggles, a pitch-perfect sidekick, and some of the most gorgeous super hero comic art around.

2013 Great Graphic Novels for Teens Top Ten (Part 1 of 3)

It’s been a couple of weeks since YALSA’s 2013 book awards and media lists were announced, but we here at The Hub wanted to delve a little deeper into some of the more exceptional titles we saw last year. Despite the fact that graphic novels continue to increase in popularity, availability, and quality, there are still many people who simply don’t read them and, subsequently, have a difficult time figuring out which ones are good choices for teen readers.  We intend to fix that by taking a closer look at the 2013 Great Graphic Novels for Teens Top 10 in a three-part series. Today’s post will tackle the three non-fiction titles that made the list.

My Friend Dahmer by Derf BackderfFirst up is Derf Backderf’s My Friend Dahmer. I won’t lie: I’m not so good with true crime and I put off reading this as long as I could, but once I opened the cover I simply couldn’t put it down. Seamlessly blending true crime and memoir, the author recalls his relationship with high school classmate Jeffrey Dahmer. Why did this make the GGNFT Top 10? The unforgettable and honestly-told story is served remarkably well by the author’s use of the graphic format. Backderf’s drawing style perfectly evokes the time period, and he uses the black-and-white palette to its fullest effect, creating darkly emotional panels that brilliantly convey Dahmer’s internal struggles. It is a horrific and difficult story, but Backderf tells it with a surprising level of emotional complexity, depth, and even compassion. This one also made the 2013 Top Ten Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers list and was named a 2013 Alex Award winner, which means you had better go read it this instant.

Morris Award Finalist: Wonder Show by Hannah Barnaby

The William C. Morris Award celebrates new writers in young adult literature by honoring outstanding works by authors who are writing for teens for the first time. Wonder Show, a story about a teen orphan searching for her family during the 1930s, is one of this year’s finalists. Today’s post features an interview with author Hannah Barnaby.

Wonder Show by Hannah BarnabyCongratulations on being named a Morris Award finalist! What was your reaction when you found out?

I received the call from Lisa DiSarro, who is the school and library marketing manager at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and also an old friend from my days as an editor there. We had been trying to get in touch and catch up, so when I saw her name on my phone, I never suspected she was calling with such wonderful news. It took me a few minutes to comprehend what was going on! (This is oddly similar to what happened when my editor, Kate O’Sullivan, called to offer me a contract for Wonder Show. My son had been born a few months earlier and I thought she was just calling to ask about the baby.)

The theme of family is so strong throughout the book. Was that intentional from the beginning, or did it evolve along with Portia’s story?

Teens’ Top Ten: An Interview with Beth Revis

Teen Read Week is October 14th through 20th, but here at The Hub, we’re celebrating for ten days so we can bring you interviews, guest posts, videos, and more with each of the authors whose books made this year’s Teens’ Top Ten. Today we feature an interview with Beth Revis, whose book Across the Universe is #6 on this year’s list.

Congratulations! How did it feel to know your book was a Teens’ Top Ten selection?

I screamed out loud! This is one of the pie-in-the-sky awards that I’ve secretly longed for even before I was published. This is such a vote of confidence from the very people I wrote the book for, and that means everything to me.

While it clearly has its roots in science fiction, Across the Universe can just as easily be called a mystery or a love story. Did you intend to create such a genre-blending book, or did it evolve naturally?

It evolved naturally. When I started writing, I was frankly scared. I’d never written a sci fi before, and wasn’t sure I could do it properly. The roots of the story comes from the murder mystery and the twist at the end — and for those two things to work, I needed a science fiction setting. Once I started writing the world of Godspeed, everything else came naturally.

Across the Universe opens with a detailed scene that is quite chilling for both the characters and the reader. How much of that is based in current cryogenic science and how much was from your imagination?

The Next Big Thing: Nonfiction in the Spotlight

YALSA’s upcoming YA Literature Symposium will explore the future of young adult literature. The symposium begins on November 2nd, but we wanted to get a head start here at The Hub, so we’re devoting October to 31 Days of the Next Big Thing. Each day of the month, we’ll bring you forecasts about where YA literature is headed and thoughts on how you can spot trends and predict the future yourself.

Even if you aren’t somehow involved with students or education, you’ve probably heard of the Common Core State Standards, a new initiative that aims to standardize learning expectations and improve student performance. With only five states yet to adopt the Common Core, it’s looking like this is the future of education in the United States.

How will it affect students and reading? Increased standards of education can only lead to increased standards of educational materials, and I suspect that the adoption of the Common Core means we are going to see some big shifts in how print materials are created and packaged. As books increasingly share space with databases and online resources, to say nothing of the burgeoning trend of transmedia, print resources will need to be exceptional if they wish to compete. The Common Core also highlights the use of “informational texts” — nonfiction, that is — across disciplines (even English classes: in fourth grade, “literary” and “informational” texts should be used in equal amounts in English/language arts, but in 8th grade 55% of readings should be informational, and in 12th grade, 70% will be).

So what’s the big new trend for nonfiction? I’m guessing we will see a veritable explosion of high quality nonfiction that is as compelling as it is educational.

New Adult Titles With Plenty Of Teen Appeal

I’ve been taking a bit of a break from teen lit this summer. Funny, then, that I should end up with a bedside table full of books that, while technically adult, are undoubtedly finding plenty of teen readers. Here are three recent adult titles that will challenge and delight older teens:

To say that Alif, a young computer hacker living in the Middle East, is having a bad day would be a bit of an understatement. He just found out that his girlfriend is engaged, she is marrying the head of state security (who happens to be Alif’s most dangerous enemy), and her final gift to Alif is a ratty old book. Why would she give him a collection of stories rumored to have been written by magical beings? It is only when security forces begin to ruthlessly pursue Alif that he realizes the book’s importance as a tool that might possibly allow him to defeat his enemy once and for all. Alif the Unseen is a perfect bridge book for teens ready to move into adult fiction. The premise alone will be enough to hook readers, but the rip-roaring adventure and fantastic characters make for a rich and rewarding reading experience as it explores complex themes and ideas. Sarcastic jinn and a smart young protagonist make this one an obvious choice for fans of Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimaeus Trilogy.