The Hub Tweets of the Week – March 4, 2011

Here is a list of fun and informative tweets from some of your favorite people in YA Lit:

– Faythe Arredondo – currently reading Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Book Review: Life Sucks by Jessica Abel, Gabe Soria, and Warren Pleece

Dave Miller is not your average convenience store employee. The Last Stop is frequented by Goths who want to be vampires while Dave begrudgingly knows all too well what it means to un-live. When he falls for Rosa, a beautiful and dynamic girl who romanticizes immortality, his un-life gets more complicated as he competes against a rival vampire for her affections. Life Sucks goes the way of love stories everywhere, Dave must protect Rosa from who he is while winning her over. This is not your average vampire story, this is an action packed tale about a boy fighting adversity for the love of a strong woman.

Co-written by renowned graphic novelist Jessica Abel, it is no wonder why the dialogue is spot on. Both she and Gabe Soria capture the nuances of conversation, quarrel, and expression. Warren Pleece’s nighttime Los Angeles is illustrated in a way that brings the freeways, parking lots, and beaches to life.

For more terrific graphic novel recommendations be sure to check out YALSA’s 2011 Great Graphic Novels for Teens list and you can even nominate a title for the 2012 list here!

-Marie Penny, currently reading La Perdida by Jessica Abel

Not Really A Dirty Word: Finding the Right Fanfiction Online

To literature snobs, it’s the ultimate dirty word—a place where people go to alter or continue the storylines of some of their favorite films, books, television series, video games, manga, etc.  But to some of us, it’s just another place to go to read for free.  Some of it includes familiar characters, locations, events, and narratives.  Some of it just takes character names and features and brings us into a whole different universe.  For readers, it’s a place to go in unknown directions.  For authors, it’s a way in which to hone their skills.  And with Teen Tech Week coming up, it’s a great place for teens to Mix and Mash around reading and technology in a creative setting.

I first discovered the Derbyshire Writer’s Guild in Tenth Grade, while doing research on the works of Jane Austen.  Clueless, and having never heard the word “fanfiction” in my life, I entered into the world of hundreds, maybe even thousands of fan-written stories.  I ran to my school librarian the next morning, ecstatic with my find and a little giddy with unrest—I’d stayed up for hours reading the night before.  That continued to be my primary source of Austen material—then my only fandom—until a couple years later when someone on the boards mentioned a story that had been posted on another website,

Heaven help me.

From there, I went exploring into countless worlds and fandoms—even ventured into different books so I could read the stories people were discussing on the forum.  But with thousands of stories, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.  So I’m going to give you a few starting pointers to navigating this crazy world.

Fanlore is a great place to start if you’re interested in actually learning about fanfiction as a collection.  You can go here to find information about various types of fan work, fandoms, and other interesting tidbits—did you know author Cassandra Clare of Mortal Instrument fame established a strong following in the Harry Potter fandom with a six year endeavor called The Draco Trilogy?  You can also contribute any information you might know that has not yet been added.  The developers of Fanlore have been very good about producing alphabetical lists of just about everything, so both browsing and searching are made easy here. is also a place you can go for lists of lists.  One thing that causes it to surpass fanlore, if you are just looking for a story, is the ability to search by original text category.  From there, you can search by original text name—anything from Twilight to The Wizard of Oz—rating: K-T (Stories are rated for age suitability as K, K+, T, and M–default is set to K->T, and be prepared to verify your age before viewing anything higher)—story type (choose from Action/Adventure, Romance, Hurt/Comfort, Humor, and many more).  You can even choose what characters you want to be in the story. There is a broad range of everything on ffnet, in both writing quality and content.  Reading at the T level can help with that, on occasion.

Every book or series with any kind of following will likely have an online presence—a fandom—especially if said book or series has been turned into films or a television show.  Think Harry Potter.  Think Vampire Diaries.  Think Little House on the Prairie.  You think I’m kidding.  Many of these fandoms collect on overarching websites, and many have branched off into their own communities where they can both discuss the original works—canon—and present their own writing.  There are some fandoms that have produced so much literature that it is sometimes difficult to decipher canon from fanon—things that the readers and authors take for granted (and protest when changed!) that never existed in the originals.  Heaven forbid Colonel Fitzwilliam not be named Richard or Draco Malfoy not have the second highest grades at Hogwarts.   It would be difficult to list all of these dedicated sites; with so many hundreds of individual fandoms, each of which might have more than one website dedicated to it, so I would suggest a brief search on Google.

I know, all of this information can be decidedly hard to rake through.  If you have a fandom in mind, have at it.  Find the section for it on Fanlore or ffnet, or search for it.  Ask for recommendations on the boards.  If you’re still shopping, try, or fanlore.  They can set you on your path.

So, instead of scratching your head for another book when you hear “I’ve read [Insert Title Here] and I loved it, and I’ve also read [Everything Else Like It], what have you got for me?” Why not suggest fanfiction?  Not only is it a great place to find new worlds and universes (not to mention other fans to squee with), but we can choose what characteristics our favorite characters–and the ones we hate–might have in a world of our choice.  Not only is it a great place for readers, but future writers get a chance to dip their feet into the proverbial pond.


–Jessica Pryde, nostalgically rereading Correspondence and Courtship, one of the first complete fanfics she ever read.

Extra Extra! Read More About It: Author Easter Eggs

We all want more when we’ve finished a good book, or are waiting for more in a series.  But what if there are bits that we haven’t seen, and just haven’t found them yet?  Sometimes, authors put missing scenes, drafts, chapters, and even whole novels and novellas on their websites. We just have to go in search of them.  The most well known, of course (thanks to all the copyright/sharing scandal), is Stephenie Meyer‘s Midnight Sun–a project which she is on again/off again about completing.  But, she still has a draft version of it posted on her website, and it’s still lots of fun.  She may never truly publish it, but at least we’re getting more from her.

Want more Vampire Diaries than the CW‘s giving you?  Check out L. J. Smith’s fabulous website shorts.  Six stories give you a bit of background on stories that originally made you say “huh?” Some are more sugary, others more gory.  But they’ve all got that Vampire Diaries flavor that can only be created by L. J. Smith.  You can also find a scene she decided to leave out of Book 6 of the series…but still wanted to share with us.

Anyone who’s read Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side probably thinks that while Jessica and Luc’s story is pretty nice where it stands, more is always good.  So, if you haven’t already, check out Jessica 1.5 (or try it in Italian!) on Fantaskey’s website–where you can also find an excerpt from Jessica Rules the Dark Side, with more to follow in the coming weeks.  She promised.

Lauren Oliver has given us a deeper look into her new Delirium with a sidebar on her website.  Titles include “A Guide to Your Evaluation,” “A Partial List of Forbidden Books,” and anonymous “Testimonials.”  While not truly “extra material,” they’re still an interesting bit of reading that gives you more insight into this delirious world.

While the fabulous Robin Benway does not provide us with extra stories on her website, she does give us some fun things to hold us over after we’ve read both Audrey, Wait! and The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, and June. Not only can we follow the Stephenson sisters on Twitter, but we can listen to soundtracks for both works of art.  And if you want just a little bit more from Robin, she also writes a music blog.  The entries are short; the songs are great.  Be warned, though. She’s got a bit of a potty mouth.

Check out the set of Neil Gaiman short stories on his website.  While none have any direct link to the books he’s put out (although one has appeared in anthologies before), it’s always nice to have more Neil Gaiman.  Sadly, Terry Prachett doesn’t make an appearance.

Instead of an “extra,” Cory Doctorow has a free download of his novel Little Brother made available in its entirety through a Creative Commons license. He even asks readers to send their own “remixes,” be they translations, art, adaptations, songs, or anything else they can think of.  He’s a fan of Creative Commons, and has free downloads of some of his stories as well.  There’s an interesting discourse on why he makes his work freely available, to benefit both himself and his readers. Might even inspire you to either go out and buy either book or make a donation.

And finally, while not really an “extra,” per se, go to YALSA Printz award winner Libba Bray’s website, click on Books, click on the cow.  Now keep clicking on it.  You will thank me.

Obviously, I haven’t covered everything that’s out there.  Do you have any great reads that are only available online?

–Jessica Pryde, Currently reading The King’s Rose by Alisa Libby

Animated short based on Shaun Tan book nominated for Oscar! UPDATE: Won!

The Lost Thing, an animated short film based on a picture book by Shaun Tan, has been nominated for an Oscar. I’m going to be honest with you, readers: I haven’t actually read the book, but if it’s half as good as his other books like Tales From Outer Suburbia or The Arrival (which was on YALSA’s 2008 list of Great Graphic Novels!), I’m prepared to give it an unseen thumbs-up. His delicate images, combinations of pencil, watercolor, and collage, are sublimely beautiful, and his reality-with-a-twist stories will stay with you long after you put down his books. The Lost Thing, about a bottle-top collector who discovers a strange creature looking for its proper place, looks like it captures Tan’s style perfectly in animated form.

It doesn’t look like you can watch the short itself anywhere online, but you can see a clip of it here. The official site for the short also has a trailer. Take a look, and don’t forget to watch the Oscars on February 27th to see if it wins!

–Ted Anderson, already reserving a copy of The Lost Thing at his local library

UPDATE: The Lost Thing won Best Animated Short! Congratulations to Shaun Tan and co-director Andrew Ruhemann!

I’ve also dug up a few more relevant links: the official Oscar site has a short video about all the nominees, the State Library of Victoria has an interactive display of the book (though the interface is a little clunky), and the Melbourne-based vodcast Inframe had a cool interview with Tan a few years back.

New Authors in March

It’s hard to take a chance on a new author and concept, but the wealth of talent emerging in debut titles deserves further attention, as evidenced by awards like ALA’s William C Morris YA Debut Award. If you’re looking for a new book to escape into or one to sell to your teens, here’s a short list of the newcomers worth checking out.

If ever a book to hand to fans of Ellen Hopkins or Carol Lynch Williams, it’s Kimberly Marcus’s Exposed (Random House, 99780375866937). This story, told in verse, explores rape through the eyes of Liz, who is not the victim but happens to be close to both the accused and the accuser. Liz is a photographer, and it is through her behind-the-screen work that we come to see that the effects of rape are wide reaching. Marcus’s website is here.

March brings us Kim Harrington’s Clarity (Scholastic, 9780545230506): a story about Clare, a girl who can see things – lots of things – when she as much as touches something. So when a dead body appears, Clare’s ex-boyfriend wants her to get involved and help solve the crime. But will her talents fail her when she needs them most? Clarity promises family drama, romance, and a whole lot of magic. You can read blogger reviews of the title here and here as well as visit Harrington’s website here.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (Philomel/Penguin, 9780399254123) brings us a historical fiction set during World War II. 15-year-old Lina – a Lithuanian girl – lives like any average teen until the night that Soviets tear her and her family from their home. Her father is sent to prison camp, and the rest of Lina’s family is sent by order of Stalin to upper Siberia to work in some of the cruelest and harshest conditions imaginable. Over the course of years and thousands of miles, Lina’s drawings might be what help her and her family maintain hope for being reunited. This title has gotten a good deal of pre-pub buzz, including blog reviews here and here and a pair of good teen review here. You can learn more about the book here.

Everyone has idolized another person – wished they could be as smart, as pretty, as skilled as someone else. That’s the story at the core of Kirsten Hubbard’s Like Mandarin (Random House, 9780385739351). Fourteen-year-old Grace, a girl bored in her small Wyoming town, has her wild dreams dashed by her mother time and again. But when she is paired for a school assignment with Mandarin, the coolest 17-year-old around, Grace is convinced she’ll be able to tear out of her small town and move on to bigger and better things. But the truth is, Mandarin isn’t all she’s pretending she is and may be leading Grace down a dangerous road. In the blogging world, this title’s gotten attention here and here . You can connect with Kirsten herself on her website here.

Bettina Restrepo brings us Illegal (HarperCollins, 9780061953422), a story ripped from the headlines. Nora’s on the verge of her quincenera, but the gift she most wishes for is for her father to return to their home in Cedula, Mexico. Her father is in America, working toward giving his family a future. Something inside Nora tells her she needs to find him, and thus the story of Nora crossing the border and taking on the identity of those who are identity-less in America. Find out more about this story about immigration and promises on Restrepo’s website here.

And finally, buzz has been building over Lauren DeStefano’s debut Wither: The Chemical Garden Trilogy (Simon and Schuster, 9781442409057). This book, written in merely 26 days, is a literary dystopian set in a world where men die at 25 and women die at 20. Rhine — the main character — is ripped from her comfortable life by a wealthy man who forces her into marriage. While she has everything she can possibly imagine in her new home, it’s when she befriends a household servant that she realizes this world she lives in isn’t as cut-and-dry as she thought. Wither is the first in a trilogy and has garnered comparisons to Margaret Atwood’s classic The Handmaid’s Tale. DeStefano’s book has been reviewed here and here . Her own website is here.

If you read a book by a debut author that you believe is great, you (yes, you!) can fill out a nomination form for YALSA’s William C. Morris Award here (and also read more about the guidelines there.)

– Kelly Jensen, who is currently reading Playing Hurt by Holly Schindler.

I Am Number Four review & bonus movie news!

Last week I tried to plow through all 440 pages of I Am Number Four so I could have it read before I saw the movie. I didn’t manage to finish it by last Friday, but I’ve finished since. Here’s my spoiler-light take on the book and movie (with bonus YA movie news at the end!) 

The plot:
John Smith looks like any other fifteen year old boy, and has a lot of the same worries – girls, friends, avoiding confrontation with the school bully- but he’s no ordinary teenager. John Smith is actually an alien, one of nine children with special powers who, along with their guardians, escaped from their home planet Lorien during a devastating invasion. The invading aliens, the Mogadorians, are hunting down the survivors and killing them off in order. Numbers one through three are dead, and John is Number Four. He and his guardian Henri need to evade discovery while John develops his powers, and then, hopefully, they will unite with the rest of the Lorien survivors to defeat the Mogadorians.

The Book:
I Am Number Four reads like the first draft of what could be a fun, fast-paced YA sci-fi novel. Unfortunately, the key to that sentence is “first draft.” John Smith narrates, and his voice is incredibly uneven – it’s hard to tell if he’s supposed to sound like a fifteen year old boy, or like a wise-beyond-his-years alien. The other characters are equally under-developed. I couldn’t get a handle on John’s relationship with Henri, his guardian and father-figure, and Sarah, his blonde and blue-eyed love interest, seems to be notable mostly for being pretty and taking pictures. Bernie Kosar, John’s rather mysterious dog, is the book’s most lovable character by far.

Because the characters are lackluster, it’s hard to get involved in the action, although some of the action sequences are pretty cool (and the high point of the movie – see below!). I did enjoy the sequences where John and Henri practice developing Henri’s powers, and it was fun to witness John’s friend Sam’s reaction to John’s growing abilities. Overall, however, the writing is rough. There’s much more “telling” than “showing.” The plot is unnecessarily complex, and important details are glossed over in favor of unnecessary descriptions (do we really need to know, for example, the layout of Sarah’s house?) The novel could have easily been a hundred pages shorter, and might have been a fun read if it were. Continue reading I Am Number Four review & bonus movie news!

The Hub Tweets of the Week – February 25, 2011

Here is a list of fun and informative tweets from some of your favorite people in YA Lit:

– Faythe Arredondo – currently reading The Wedding of Jessica and Lucius by Beth Fantaskey

The manga of Natsume Ono

If you’ve taken a look at YALSA’s list of Great Graphic Novels of 2010—and if you haven’t, what’s stopping you?—you may have noticed not one but two works by an author named Natsume Ono. Both Not Simple and the first volume of her series House of Five Leaves are on YALSA’s list, and deservedly so: they’re both really, really good.

Continue reading The manga of Natsume Ono

Author L.K. Madigan Passes Away

This is hard to write.  A rising star in the young adult writing pantheon is lost to us today.  L.K. (Lisa) Madigan died yesterday, February 23, after a courageous battle with cancer.  She will be missed.  I know that because I was lucky enough to chair the committee that awarded her the 2010 William C. Morris Award and we were fortunate enough to meet and spend time with her.

The Morris Award honored Lisa’s debut novel Flash Burnout as the best debut novel for 2010.  She was named one of the five finalists and she never seemed to quite get over being listed among that group, much less being the actual winner.  She was a funny, thoughtful and generous person and writer. Lisa’s acceptance speech video can be viewed here.

It’s not often a committee has the opportunity to really spend time with some of the best new authors out there , but thanks to their publishers we spent a magical evening enjoying all five finalists.  The limelight was graciously shared among the five because Lisa insisted on sharing her spotlight.  In fact, she kept referring to the committee as “my librarians” because she said we were her bridge to her readers.  It was a statement she reminded me of over these past months, and is a powerful reminder of why we must take our committee duties seriously.

Lisa published one more book, The Mermaid’s Mirror.  It is very different from her debut novel, but equally well written and engaging.  Take time to read and share her books.  And on behalf of the 2010 Morris Committee we hope that each of you will pick up a book, any book, and share it with a young reader today…be “my librarian” ….it is what Lisa would have wanted us to do.

–Judy T Nelson

Chair of 2010 William C. Morris Debut Author Award