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Tag: andrea cremer

Booklist: YA Alternate History

June is history month, and while there’s a ton of great historical fiction for teens out there, it’s also a perfect time to start asking “What if?”

What if the American Revolution never happened?

What if the Axis Powers won World War II?

Alternate history books are a great way to explore these questions, and alternate history for teens is becoming increasingly popular. Here are a few books to get you started.

ALTERNATE HISTORY IN YA FICTION

These stories can blend speculative elements with historical facts, which is perfect for prompting discussion about what is truth and what is fiction in the novels discussed. They can also prompt readers to explore more nonfiction about the time period. 

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Major Character Deaths In YA Lit

IMG_3045I know we’ve all been shocked and upset when a favorite character unexpectedly dies in books and TV shows. I haven’t seen the TV show based on Cass Morgan’s The 100 series but I heard about one of the main character’s recent deaths’ and how enraged fans were (even though this character isn’t even in the books).

I know that killing off beloved characters isn’t new in books or TV series – but in the past it seems like it happened more infrequently – and characters weren’t always really dead. The “it was all a dream scenario” trope (like Bobby’s death in Dallas, yeah, I know, many of you weren’t even born then!) was used in many books and shows. Soap operas repeatedly reinforce the idea too.

Because of that, we’ve been primed to think that major characters won’t die but when it really happens in books and shows, we refuse to believe it and rail against the writers for killing off our favorite characters (Sean Bean as Ned Stark in Game of Thrones, or Will from The Good Wife) – even if that’s how it was originally written in the books that these shows were adapted from!

Even YA literature, where a majority of the books end happily or on a more hopeful note, is trending toward killing off more major characters than ever before.

I think it’s a reflection of the reality of the world we’re living in. More readers are also aware of it because of the prevalence of social media with its instant access to the news and the plot points from books and shows.

Is this a healthy trend? I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, when times are tough you want to escape reality by reading about positive things where good triumphs over evil. I know that’s why I love fantasy and science fiction. Superhero movies and graphic novels fulfill that need to believe that evil will be defeated and that the good guys may seem to die but aren’t really dead because they then come back to life.

Since we’re so used to superheroes that don’t or can’t die or books that have happy endings, when beloved characters do die, it’s even more of a shock and a betrayal. I don’t blame fans for going ballistic when a character dies, especially those who did not deserve it (Rue from The Hunger Games or Chuck from The Maze Runner).MazeRunnerCover

Yet we know that death is a very real possibility in our daily lives. Characters have physical and mental fault in our starsillnesses and they die or take their own lives. It’s a tough reality but it’s still heartbreaking when it happens, especially when it happens more quickly or to a different character than you expected (like Augustus in The Fault in Our Stars). That’s why I think a lot of teens like realistic fiction because it doesn’t lie or mislead, the truth is there in all of its starkness and finality – like it or not. There’s a catharsis that the reader experiences in going through what the character does. You’ve survived at the end, even though the character hasn’t, even if you do have a headache from crying your eyes out over their death.

Maybe we as readers have we gone soft in always expecting characters to survive? Supernatural fantasies may use reanimation to being characters back to life that really should be dead but what about other dystopian books that realistically portray the reality of a cruel, hard world where few will survive? Is it really fair to expect authors to keep characters alive because they don’t want to anger or disappoint their fans? I don’t think it is.

If you want to read a great teen guest Hub blog post about getting over a fictional character’s death from 2014, check this out. Up to this point, I’ve tried hard not to blatantly include spoilers of some readers’ favorite characters who have been killed off, including my own favorites, but now I’m going to be specific.

Stop reading if you don’t want to know!

(HUGE SPOILERS AHEAD)

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Highlights from the 2013 ALAN Workshop

Just a few of the books I can't wait to read after the ALAN Workshop!
Just a few of the books I can’t wait to read after the ALAN Workshop!

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a portion of the 2013 Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of the NCTE (ALAN) Workshop. This two-day event, which brings together a wide range of young adult authors, English teachers, librarians and others, was held in Boston this year, so I decided to take the opportunity to attend and I’m very glad I did! Though I was only able to attend a portion of the first day of the workshop, I heard both Jack Gantos and Chris Crutcher speak about their work and saw some great authors speak on panels about everything from humor to dystopias. While I could go on at length about everything I learned, this post will focus on some of the most interesting speakers and particularly on the panels I was able to attend about genre writing for young adults.

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The Next Big Thing in Historical Fiction

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.

In writing this post, I’m also making an online confession. I used to think that I hated historical fiction. Why? I’m not really sure. I just know that I used to talk myself out of picking up historical fiction titles unless they were basically forced upon me. However, in the last year I have read so many absolutely stellar historical fiction books that I finally rewired my brain, and I have to admit that I kind of love historical fiction! In doing so, I began to keep an eye on what might be coming down the pike.

By scouring the interwebs, I’ve been able to pick out what I think are a few of the trends in upcoming historical fiction releases. So, as we look to the past, what can we see more of in the future?

First up, there seems to be an emerging group of historical retellings. Not just fictionalized retellings of famous historical events, but more re-envisionings of famous tales in new and intriguing historical settings. This trend has already begun with books like The Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin, which came out in April. This dark and atmospheric retelling of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death creates a steampunk version of a plague-ridden land where only the wealthy can afford the stylish masks that prevent infection. The sequel, The Dance of the Red Death, will be coming out in April 2013.

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More of What Teens are Saying About What They Are Reading

Whenever I need inspiration for that book to read next or what to suggest to a teen patron, I often look to our library’s Teen Choice Best Books display, where teens post reviews of their favorite books. (If you are curious about how the display works or what other books the young adult reviewers have written about, check out my previous post, “What Teens are Saying About What They Are Reading.”) When I looked at the display recently, of course I had a ton of reviews for The Hunger Games, but since most of you already know the series well, I only included the best review. As a visual learner, I love this display because I often recognize a cover before I can think of the title or the author. I also find that even if I’ve read the book the reviewer likes too, there may be another title in the series about to come out. Seeing the cover of The Maze Runner reminded me to look for James Dashner’s new book, The Kill Order, which is due out August 14th.

 

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (The Ultimate YA Bookshelf)

 

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31 Days of Authors: Nightshade by Andrea Cremer (a 2011 Teens’ Top Ten winner)

Teen Read Week was October 16th through the 22nd, but here at The Hub, we’re celebrating all month long with 31 Days of Authors. On each day in October, we’ll bring you exclusive author interviews and profiles plus reflections on what YALSA-recognized books have meant to us. Today we feature Andrea Cremer, whose book Nightshade is #10 on this year’s Teens’ Top Ten list.

Confession. I love books about werewolves, vampires, witches and the like.

Another confession. These days, I often find the originality of such books lacking, and titles and authors blur together into one big, indistinguishable blob in my mind.

So why do I keep reading books about werewolves and their mystical peers? Because every now and again, an author really gets it right…and Andrea Cremer is one of those authors. But don’t take my word for it. Ask the 9,000 or so teens from across the country that voted Nightshade as one of their ten most cherished books of 2011. And have no fear, Nightshade is book one in a happy trilogy. The story continues in Wolfsbane (released in July 2011) and finishes with Bloodrose (due out in February 2012).

Cremer takes common werewolf lore and twists and turns it into something totally new, utterly compelling, and just pretty darn cool. Nightshade is the story of a non-human society that exists alongside humans. Keepers, elder beings with magical/mystical powers, firmly have a place at the top ranks. Related to the Keepers are the searchers, who share the keeper powers but not their beliefs–they are presumably the enemy to all. Beneath both keepers and searchers are the guardians–and it’s the guardians that hold center stage in Nightshade. Guardians are humans who flip easily between wolf and human form and act as soldiers or enforcers on the keepers’ behalf. They obey the keepers without question, even to the extent that a keeper determines which “alphas” will lead a “pack,” who will mate with whom, where they will live, etc. Essentially, guardians accept that their lives are not their own and they do so because they believe they are part of a just cause that protects all of humanity.

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