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Tag: Best Books for Young Adults

For the Love of Cats: Felines in YA Fiction

Last month I wrote about canines in YA literature. This month I want to give equal time to the felines. Firstly because I had the joy of growing up in a household of cats. Secondly, there are dastardly cat gangs out there which watch our every move, and I don’t want to get on their bad side. Or so goes the familiar negative image of cats in some popular lore. However, anyone who has actually shared their life with cats knows that this is not at all the reality. Each cat, like each dog, has its own characteristics, whether affectionate or independent, forgiving or wary. With that in mind, in the following list I’ve tried to include fiction titles which I feel are well-suited to teens and which include feline characters in a variety of roles and with a variety of personalities.

blacksadBlacksad (Blacksad series) by Juan Díaz Canales & Juanjo Guarnido

The Spanish Canales and Guarnido originally created their Eisner Award-winning detective noir graphic novel series for French readers, but the setting is early 1950s U.S. This first volume collects the first three issues, which include a murder mystery and stories concerning the effects of white supremacy on individuals and the Red Scare. Private Investigator John Blacksad is an unforgettable feline. Lucia Cedeira Serantes, in her summer 2005 Young Adult Library Services article “¿Es un Pájaro? ¿Es un Avión?.…Spanish Comics for American Libraries” mentions two of the issues in this volume as being among the best in graphic novels and comics from Spain. (Adult Graphic Novel)

Book of Night with Moon (Feline Wizards trilogy) by Diane Duane

This is the first novel in a series which combines science fantasy, adventure, horror and even humor. There is a secret civilization of cats in Manhattan complete with its own language, a glossary of which is included in the novel. When the world is threatened with invasion by monsters from the “Downside”, four cats – Rhiow, Saash, Urruah and Arhu — seek out the wizard responsible for the dire situation. The cats make interesting observations about the differences between human and feline culture. (Adult Fiction)


M.T. Anderson Reflects on Where We Are, Years After His Iconic Book, Feed


I was lucky enough to meet M.T. Anderson, 2009 recipient of YALSA’s Best Books For Young Adults, this week at the library where I work.  He was gracious enough to grant an interview for The Hub.   With dystopian as the hot thing right now, I wanted to know where he thinks we are going, as readers, and how technology is changing us.

Science fiction often says more about the time period it was written than the imagined future society. What parallels do you see between our current social experience and your imagined world?

I wrote the book back in 2001, and, in my mind, it was actually already about the world I saw back then: a world where I didn’t even have to have a chip installed in my skull — I already heard the voice of advertising all the time, speaking in my thoughts and dreams.

Do you feel current technology is catching up with Feed?  For example, the way advertising is sent directly to us on our Facebook pages?                                                             

Technological experimentation is making “feeds” more possible every day, at a speed that I find somewhat surprising and disconcerting. For several years now, neuro-electrical scans have mapped what a buying frenzy looks like in the brain. And as of this year, we have managed to transfer movement impulses between humans over a cyberlink. We can force rats to “remember” impulses that they’ve never encountered before by digitally, and then neurologically, encoding those impulses. Intel says they want chips in consumers’ heads by 2020.  These products could soon be a reality.

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Finding a Strong Family Connection in YA…Yes, It Can Be Done!

These days it seems like a major complaint about young adult fiction is usually to do with the parents. Either they are absent, making it easier for the teen main characters to go out and conquer the world or find love or even join the circus, or the parents are abusive, neglectful, or in some cases are unable to take care of themselves, let alone their children. So it is too much to ask to find examples of strong and loving parents and families in YA books today?

I decided to hunt around through the books I’d read recently for examples of strong families and was pleased to find some great reading choices! These are books where the parents care and are actively involved in their children’s lives and books with families made stronger throughout because of the obvious and open love between parents, children, and siblings.

City of Orphans by Avi (Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books, 9781416971023) is the story of a thirteen-year-old newsboy, his family, and his new friend trying to survive in New York City in 1893. Though Maks’s family struggles to just scrape together enough money to pay their rent and eat, they do not hesitate at all to take in Willa, who has been orphaned and is living on the streets. Each family member works hard to earn money for their family. Each makes choices that benefits the entire family. This is a family that truly cares deeply for one another and will sacrifice anything to stay together.

Enchanted by Alethea Kontis (Harcourt, 9780547645704) is the story of a girl named Sunday who has to be very careful about the stories she writes, for they often come true. As the youngest of seven daughters named for the days of the week, Sunday is often overlooked, and she finds solace in a new friendship with an enchanted frog. One day, their friendship blooms into love, and with the power of a true love kiss, Sunday breaks the enchantment and stirs up all kinds of trouble! Though their love seems ill-fated, and Sunday’s family is not fond of their union, when they realize that Sunday will be miserable without her love, they pull together and do everything they can to see Sunday happy. By banding together, their powers create the perfect circumstances for true love to fully blossom.


Best Fiction for Young Adults vs. Printz

Probably my favorite YALSA book list is one that we didn’t mention in our Youth Media Awards wrap-up last week (because it wasn’t put out until after the YMAs): the Best Fiction for Young Adults list (BFYA). BFYA has been around for just two years, but it evolved from the Best Books for Young Adults (BBYA), the only difference being that the current list excludes nonfiction, graphic novels and nonfiction, and adult fiction. The BFYA/BBYA provides a list of “titles published for young adults in the past 16 months that are recommended reading for ages 12 to 18. The purpose of the annual list it to provide librarians and library workers with a resource to use for collection development and reader’s advisory purposes.”

The full list is often in the range of 100 books, but the committee also produces a Top Ten list. There are, of course, huge differences in the function and purpose of the BYFA Top Ten list and the Printz Award, but both are essentially looking for the very best YA books of the year, so I thought it would be interesting to compare the lists. This year, I was surprised that only one book was listed by both committees (The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater), so I thought I’d look at past years to see the overlap between the lists. It turns out that there has actually never been substantial overlap between the lists.

Looking at the overall numbers, in the 13 years of the Printz Award, the BBYA/BFYA committees have put 29% of Printz Award and Honor winners on their Top Ten lists, but this number is heavily skewed by the 2007 list which contained 4 of the 5 Printz titles. Only four other years had as many as two books overlap, and twice (2001 and 2010) no books overlapped.*


Art Therapy, or, Portrait of the Artist in Teen Lit

A few months ago, I read an Advanced Readers Copy of Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley. I knew I wanted to write something about it because a) I really loved the experience of reading it, and b) it’s fresh. Seriously, to me it was like delicious minty gum. I pondered what to say about it, how to express that cool breeze it gave me.

In the story, Lucy has been pining for a mysterious street artist who goes by the moniker Shadow, even though she doesn’t even know what he looks like. Through Lucy’s descriptions of his work, and later in his own voice, we realize that Shadow is no punk tagging his name around town, but a true and thought-provoking artist very much like the real life virtuoso known as Banksy. (If you haven’t seen the documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, check it out from your library immediately.)

Thinking about this aspect of the book brought on my aha! moment. It’s not only that the story centers around visual art (Lucy is herself a glass blower—how cool is that?), it’s how the book gives the reader the sense of catharsis that visual expression can give. It also emphasizes the passion that artists have for their own craft, and the love and appreciation they can feel for the work of others.


African-Americans in Graphic Novels

Given a choice between reading a literacy classic and a contemporary fiction book, most of us, including me, would probably choose the contemporary book. But, if I had the choice between reading a classic in text format versus a comics format, depending on what it is, I’d choose the graphics format.

That’s just what you can do right after Christmas when African-American Classics: Graphic Classics Volume 22 comes out, featuring some of America’s best works by Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, W.E.B. Du Bois, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and others. Contemporary black illustrators like Kyle Baker, Shepherd Hendrix and Jeremy Love have contributed their talent to this collection that showcases classic stories and poems adapted by award-winning black writers like Alex Simmons and Mat Johnson. Many of these illustrators and writers have received Glyph Awards. These awards celebrate outstanding comics made by, for, and about people of color.

This upcoming book made me curious about the representation of African-Americans in comics. Comics should reflect today’s racial and cultural diversity, so I decided to see if that was true. The representation of African-Americans in graphic novels for teens runs the gambit from:


  • Bessie Coleman: Daring Stunt Pilot by Trina Robbins (2007)
  • Malcolm X: A Graphic Biography by Andrew Helfer (2006)
  • I See the Promised Land: A Life of Martin Luther King Jr. by Arthur Flowers and Manu Chitrakar, illustrated by Guglielmo Rossi (2010)
  • BAM! The 44th President: A Graphic Novel by Kyle Baker (2010)


  • Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri, illustrated by Randy DuBurke (2010): Based on true story of an 11-year-old African-American gang member from Chicago who shot a 14-year-old girl and then was shot to death by his own gang. (2011 Great Graphic Novels for Teens)
  • Little Rock Nine by Marshall Poe, illustrated by Ellen Lindner (2008)
  • A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge by Josh Neufeld (2009): 2010 Great Graphic Novels for Teens
  • Pitch Black: Don’t Be Skerd by Youme Landowne and Anthony Horton (2008): 2009 Top Teen Graphic Novels for Teens
  • Fist, Stick, Knife, Gun: A Personal History of Violence (2010) by Jamar Nicholas, from Geoffrey Canada’s memoir that described how Canada learned to survive on the violent streets of the South Bronx. 2011 Great Graphic Novels for Teens
  • Moped Army by Paul Sizer (2005): In 2277, a girl named Simone is caught between her rich entitlement culture friends in the upper city and the gangs of moped riders who roam and patrol the lower city. 2007 Great Graphic Novels for Teens