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YA Literature Symposium: Keeping it REALLY weird

2014 November 18
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yalit14I feel very lucky to have been able to attend YALSA’s YA Literature Symposium in Austin this weekend. It was a great weekend full of thought-provoking panels, amazing author interactions, and just a lovely time talking about YA literature!

One of my favorite panels that I got to attend – and sometimes you had to make some hard choices! – was Sunday morning’s “Keeping it REALLY weird (books for the fringe & reluctant readers).” This had a great lineup hosted by Kelly Milner Halls it also included Chris Barton, Andrew Smith, Lisa Yee, Jonathan Auxier, Bruce Coville, and Laurie Ann Thompson. These authors have a reputation for writing about subjects sort of on the fringe compared to other YA books. Their books involve cryptids, unstoppable giant insects, Star Trek geeks, gamers, oddballs who make change, aliens for teachers, and ghost gardeners among other things. But many readers connect strongly to these stories of outsiders and happenings on the edge of what may be normal or accepted. Not only was this a really informative panel but it was also so much fun. Why? Take a look…

photoSee Lisa Yee in the middle? Jonathan Auxier bet her that she wouldn’t come to the panel dressed like Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s and said if she did, he would  sing all of his answers to the questions to the tune of “Moon River.” So Lisa dressed up and Jonathan had to sing until he brokered a deal with the audience to do yo-yo tricks for a singing reprieve.

That’s the fun stuff, but what did we talk about? The panelists talked about the weird things they did as a child – Lisa Yee used to pretend she had headgear to fit in with her friends; Chris Barton jumped off a second story roof; Jonathan Auxier, after an obsession with Teen Wolf, tried to convince his mother he was a werewolf – and then moved onto to more serious fair.

Asked whether the publishing industry made it harder or easier for so called “weird” books currently Bruce Coville and others noted that publishers often just want to clone hits like the Hunger Games or Harry Potter. They often are trying to catch up to trends instead of create them. Andrew Smith noted that it was really the author’s fear of ‘going there’ that kept the strangeness out of books. read more…

Genre Guide: Westerns for Teens

2014 November 18
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By Grant-Kohrs Ranch Historic Collection, bought by the National Park Service in 1972 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Grant-Kohrs Ranch Historic Collection, bought by the National Park Service in 1972 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Definition

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

Characteristics

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…

When Friends Become Family

2014 November 17
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As we draw close to Thanskgiving, we often turn our thoughts and plans to family. While there are YA characters who have strong families, astomorrow Jessica’s 2012 post  and Kelly’s post from last week shows, there are also lots of YA books where the protagonists have either lost family members, been separated from them, or never had a proper family to begin with. This doesn’t mean these characters have no family relationships, though. Lots of YA characters, when faced with a lack of a regular family, create their own. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Ellie and her friends in the Tomorrow series by John Marsden (the movie version was chosen as a Fabulous Film for Young Adults 2013). This action packed series, which starts with Tomorrow, When the War Began follows a group of Australian teenagers who go away for a camping trip and come back to find their country has been invaded. As the plot unfolds, the friends rely on each other more and more to be both fellow soldiers determined to take back their homes and a family that both provides emotional support and takes on the everyday tasks of making a place to live. I especially like that the last book in the series, The Other Side of Dawn, deals with the difficulty of reintegrating with their parents after the enforced separation and self-sufficiency, and the companion series, The Ellie Chronicles, continues to explore the toll that war takes on families, both given and self-made. Although I haven’t yet read them, I think Emmy Laybourne’s Monument 14 series (2014 Teens’ Top Ten) covers some of the same ground in terms of a family forged out of necessity.  read more…

How To Read: Step by Step Instructions to Pleasure Reading

2014 November 17
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reading

Reading for your own enjoyment takes practice. I know it sounds a little crazy– but folks practice their hobbies all the time and why should recreational reading be any different? It can be hard today to turn off distractions and just read. So here is a practical guide; follow it and you will soon find yourself enjoying reading. And for those of you reading this post who don’t need any help in this regard, I invite you to share your tips for happy reading.

Step 1: Pick book.

This is one of the hardest steps of the process. But fear not, you can handle it. There are so many ways to choose a book: pretty cover, friend recommendation, favorite author, saw the movie, library/book store display, read about it somewhere (twitter, instagram, facebook, tumblr, pinterest), heard about it somewhere, random browsing, librarian recommendation, teacher recommendation, it’s your favorite book and you want to read it for the tenth time darn it, read a review, literary awards, found it (in a rental vacation house and in the plane seat flap next to the barf bag perhaps), it’s a classic you’ve been meaning to read, and so on… Point being, any reason to pick a book is a good one if it works for you.  Some other resources that are helpful in finding books:

As you are selecting books, keep an open mind (even on books you did not like in the past.) read more…

The Monday Poll: Most Believable Post-Apocalyptic YA Lit

2014 November 17
by Allison Tran
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monday_pollGood morning, Hub readers!

Last week, in honor of Veteran’s Day, we asked for your favorite YA book depicting the the veteran experience. The top pick, with 44% of the vote, was Laurie Halse Anderson’s most recent release, The Impossible Knife of Memory. It was followed by Gary D. Schmidt’s Okay For Now, with 23% of the vote. You can see detailed results for all of our previous polls in the Polls Archive. Thanks to all of you who voted!

This week, on a totally different note, we want to know which version of a post-apocalyptic world in YA lit you think is the most believable. Do you think society will crumble and stay that way? Will it be rebuilt as a dystopia with an evil leader? Will people be able to breathe the air outside after the big event happens? Will there be zombies? Vote in the poll below, or add your choice in the comments if we missed it.

Which YA book features the most believable post-apocalyptic worldbuilding?

  • Life as we Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer (42%, 39 Votes)
  • Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi (23%, 21 Votes)
  • Ashfall by Mike Mullin (17%, 16 Votes)
  • Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis (9%, 8 Votes)
  • Blood Red Road by Moira Young (5%, 5 Votes)
  • Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan (4%, 4 Votes)

Total Voters: 93

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We Need Diverse Books: Spotlight on Benjamin Alire Saenz

2014 November 14
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benjaminsaenzLast month, I began a series devoted to highlighting diversity within YA literature in an effort to support the We Need Diverse Books campaign–check out my first post in the series for more information and to read about Sara Farizan’s novels. This month, I thought I’d focus on another critically acclaimed YA writer, Benjamin Alire Saenz, an award-winning author (2013 Printz Honor!) and poet.

A remarkably unique voice in YA literature, Saenz draws heavily from his own experiences as a young Chicano boy growing up on the Mexico/New Mexico border in the 1960s. His work also often deals with sexuality and homophobia, a result of Saenz’ own struggles with coming out which he did quite late in life. His intersecting themes of race, culture, class, and sexuality certainly make his novels stand out amongst the YA canon but it is not this alone that makes him so noteworthy. read more…

Tweets of the Week: November 14

2014 November 14
by Katie Shanahan Yu
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Are you attending the YA Lit Symposium this weekend? Be sure to tweet all about it with hashtag #yalit14!  Here’s the latest happenings this week on Twitter…

tweets of the week | the hub

Books and Reading

read more…

We Are Family: Sibling Stories in YA Lit

2014 November 13
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we are family imageI did not begin my career as an older sister on a very positive note. In fact, it is difficult to find an video of my brother’s infant years without having the footage interrupted by a bouncing three-year-old who springs into the frame to sing out some variation of “Look at me!”

Happily, despite some rough patches, my relationship with my brother is one of the most stable and significant aspects of my life.  He’s my friend, fellow sci-fi television & folk music fan, joint owner of favorite childhood books, cooking idol, and one of my all around favorite people on the planet. Consequently, I have a soft spot for stories featuring siblings.  Just as there are many different kinds of families and individuals, so too are there many different kinds of sibling relationships and all are complex & fascinating.

personal effectsPersonal Effects – E.M. Kokie (2013 Best Fiction For Young Adults; 2013 Rainbow List)

Since his beloved big brother T.J. was killed in action in Iraq, Matt has been moving through his quickly collapsing life in a daze.  Between failing classes, getting in fights at school, and trying to avoid his dad’s anger and disappointment, Matt feels like his purpose disappeared with T.J.  But when his brother’s personal effects are finally delivered, Matt is convinced that he might finally be able to understand T.J.’s death.  But T.J.’s possessions contain certain shocking revelations that force Matt to wonder how well he really knew his brother.

imaginary girlsImaginary Girls – Nova Ren Suma (2014 Outstanding Books for the College Bound)

It isn’t uncommon for younger siblings to believe that their elder sisters are extraordinary, but Chloe knows she’s far from the only person to recognize that her sister Ruby’s someone special. Ruby is the girl that everyone longs to touch–the girl everyone wants to be.  When Ruby wants something to happen, it does.  She’s untamable, unpredictable, and almost unbelievable.  But after a night out with Ruby & her friends went horribly wrong, Chloe was sent away. Now, two years later, they’re reunited–but Chloe can’t help wondering exactly how far Ruby was willing to go to get her back.  read more…

Jukebooks: The Carnival at Bray by Jessie Ann Foley

2014 November 12
by Diane Colson
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Carnival at BrayIt’s 1993. Maggie is being uprooted from everything that she knows and loves: Chicago, comfort television, and the enthralling attention of her Uncle Kevin. Now she is an ocean away, trudging through the rain at a carnival in a small town by the Irish Sea. Why? Because Maggie’s mom has met another man, and this time she married him. Despite her loneliness, Maggie comes to love the people of Bray, particularly a handsome lad named Eion.

Even as life is growing richer for Maggie, Uncle Kevin is hitting a downward spiral. It is because of Keven that Maggie and Eion take off to Rome, to see Nirvana play in concert. Maggie screamed until all that came out was, “a joyous gurgling sound.” Despite the huge trouble resulting from their impromptu trip, Maggie and Eion plan to see Nirvana when they come to Dublin. Kurt Cobain killed himself before this concert could take place.

Like Janis Joplin in last week’s Jukebooks, Kurt Cobain is a member of the “27 Club.” This is an admittedly morbid allusion to a group of musicians who died at the age of 27. The idea came about when five musicians (Brian Jones, Alan Wilson, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison) all died within a two year span, all at the age of 27. Cobain, and later, Amy Winehouse, are also included in this very undesirable club.

Here is Nirvana, singing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in Rome, 1994.

-Diane Colson, currently reading Teen Spirit by Francesca Lia Block

YALSA YA Lit Symposium: The Student Perspective

2014 November 11
by Allison Tran
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yalsa_ya_lit_symposium2014Are you getting excited? YALSA’s YA Literature Symposium in Austin is just a few days away! If you’ve never been to a YA Lit Symposium, you might be wondering what it’s all about. Leading up this year’s Symposium, we’ve been featuring interviews with Symposium attendees past and present to give you a picture of why you should attend and what to expect.

Our final interview features Alyson Feldman-Piltch, who shares with us the valuable perspective of a library school student. 

What was the most memorable thing about the YA Lit Symposium you attended?

This was the very first conference ever attended, so that in itself makes it fairly memorable.  I just remember being in awe that I was in the same room as all these authors- and that they actually wanted to talk to me; and that other people wanted to talk to me too!  I was nervous that as a student I wasn’t going to fit in, but I talked to people, made some contacts, and even keep in touch with a few!

What was your favorite author experience/presentation at the Symposium?

Right before I came to the Symposium I had read No Crystal Stair by Vaunda Michaeux Nelson.  Since I had never been to a conference before, I had no idea if I would actually get a chance to interact with the authors, so I wrote her a letter thanking her for sharing her family’s story and telling her how much I appreciated her book.  In the hubbub of some mixer, I handed her the note and just sort of walked on my way, but later on she came up to me and thanked me for my note.  I was totally on cloud nine. read more…