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Tag: diana peterfreund

Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2020) Nominees Round Up, December 9 Edition

Click here to see all of the current Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.

cover artCreep by Eireann Corrigan
Scholastic Press / Scholastic
Publication Date: October 1, 2019
ISBN: 9781338095081

Olivia is excited to bond with her new neighbor Janie Donahue, not to mention Janie’s sweet older brother Ben. When threatening letters signed by the “Sentry” appear throughout the Donahue home, the trio immerse themselves in local history in order to outsmart the perpetrator and keep the Donahue family together.

This is a quick thriller, as well as a modestly creepy read. Olivia is a quiet and thoughtful protagonist drawn to the loud and dramatic Donahue family, whose members are harboring a wealth of secrets. The Sentry is just threatening enough to keep the tension high, and the mystery moves along quickly, thanks to engaging glimpses into the past of the town and its inhabitants. The story wraps up neatly, and Corrigan sprinkles plenty of clues throughout the narrative to make the ending believable. The interesting setting– a historic home full of secret rooms and hiding places–adds additional excitement. 

A great selection for fans of light horror, especially stories involving stalkers or watchers. Readers who appreciated The Missing Season by Gillian French or The Haunted by Danielle Vega will enjoy this book.  

–Kathleen J. Barker

Study Break Books: Books for when you really don’t have time to be reading.

study_break_booksIt’s AP Exams season where I work, and finals time for many a college and high school. Which means legions of bleary-eyed students trying to summon up the discipline for a last surge of studying, even though they just want to be done. The sunshine is calling. I hear it too, and even though I’m well past the exam-taking phase of life, I’m still in crunch mode, trying to power through to many deadlines.

For the dedicated bookworms among us, studying for exams generally requires two sets of reading; the materials we’re actually supposed to be reviewing, and the reading we sneak for “study breaks.” This is a calculated strategy (no, really!) designed to achieve the perfect balance of discipline and release, allowing us to get all the necessary reviewing in while also getting enough of a break to feel revived and ready for…still more reviewing. Because the internet and everything that lives there can rapidly turn into a vast time-suck, all responsible students (and worker-bees) know: if you’re serious about getting something done, you have to stay (temporarily) signed out of all the stuff, especially this close to the finish line. And the pitfalls of streaming-binges are obvious, so the TV’s got to stay off too (as do the game consoles).

But a book…a book feels studious, even if what we’re reading isn’t likely to show up on any exams, or help cross anything off a task list.

So. What to read when you don’t really have time to be reading at all, but you absolutely must get a little escape in if you have any hope of staying motivated long enough to cover everything you’ve still got to do?

Unless you are a reader with very good self-discipline, novels are probably out. Novels are what we get to read when everything on the task list is actually done, when grades are in, school is out, and your to-do list is all inked-out lines.

Page count matters when you’re on a deadline. Short-ish graphic novels and short story collections are what we need when time is at a premium; pieces vivid enough to truly escape into, and short enough that we emerge from our work-respite refreshed and ready to dive back into the task at hand.

Here, then, are some suggestions for quick escapes, to tide you over until the freedom of summer is a reality, and not just a highly-anticipated future fantasy.

lips touchLips Touch, Three Times by Laini Taylor. Are you a fan of sweeping fantasy shot through with romance, like Taylor’s epic Daughter of Smoke and Bone series? Well, here are three short stories about three different girls who’ve never been kissed, told in Taylor’s distinct, dramatic style, with brief page counts (but high pulse rates). A 2010 Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults book.

Through the Woods by Emily CarrollThrough the Woods by Emily Carroll. This is an I’m-too-busy-to-read jackpot of a book; short chapters in graphic format, thematically connected to make one creepy wave of foreboding descend over the reader. Gorgeous colors, stick-with-you-after-dark frames, and spare, haunting prose combine to make this 2015 Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens pick a fast – but memorable – escape into the murky depths of the woods.

Divining Dystopias


October is an exciting month for any YA lit fan, because it includes Teen Read Week! In honor of this annual celebration of young adult literature, YALSA invited book-loving teens all over the world to apply to share their enthusiasm for reading in a guest post for The Hub. Thirty-one talented young writers were chosen, and we’ll be featuring posts from these unique voices all month long. Here’s Rashika Rao, age 14.


Ever since The Hunger Games, the craze for teen dystopias has escalated exponentially- are the novels going past the point of no return? This teen certainly thinks so. As more and more YA dystopian novels are written and published, the authors all seem to be forgetting the difference between writing in the same genre and writing with the same outline.

Recently, I’ve started to realize just how cliché dystopian novels are: it’s getting to the point where, if you just give me the first couple pages and a couple of character names, I can often predict an entire series’ main plot line.

Here is a list of what I think are the top 10 clichés in modern dystopian novels (in no particular order):
1. Dysfunctional government: there is always something wrong with the governmental system.

Some people like to argue that that’s the point of a dystopian novel. But if you look up the definition of a dystopia, it qualifies as a “an imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad.” (verbatim from Google).

Maybe it’s just me, but I’d like something worse to happen than corrupt government every now and then.

Another quick point: why are these officials always so violent? Torture, secret kidnappings, you name it, they’ve got it. The excuse is always that no one will stand up to them. But, quoting my AP U.S. History teacher here, “when you keep pushing people into a corner, eventually they’re going to push back.” Well, you defenders will say, that’s the point of the rebellion/rising/see #7! Okay. Fine. But how does our main character oh so conveniently get tangled up with them? And why is she/he (mostly she) always the key to their success?

Something everyone always forgets: These characters are just children. Since when have adults trusted children this much?

Heading to College? Read These Books First

Photo by Jason B. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.
Photo by Jason B. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

For many colleges and universities, this week marks the beginning of the new year, which is an exciting time of seeing old friends, making new friends, choosing your classes and buying textbooks. And, for many high school seniors, fall semester represents the start of the college application process. In honor of these two annual traditions, September seems like the perfect time for a post on books that focus on this transition to college.

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys – Set in New Orleans in the 1950s, this historical novel from 2012 Morris Award finalist Ruta Sepetys tells the story of Josie Moraine. She is the daughter of a prostitute who is determined to make it out of New Orleans and away from the type of life that her mother has created for herself, both literally when she moves out of the brothel to live on her own above a bookshop and figuratively. Her greatest dream is to find a way to attend a prestigious college in the north. But to achieve this goal, she will have to fight against influences in her life that are trying to draw her back into the world of illicit activities and shady characters that she has so long fought against.

Hacking Harvard by Robin Wasserman – A group of hackers decide to undertake the ultimate challenge: find a way to get a completely unqualified classmate into Harvard University. But, a simple bet makes what seemed to be nothing more than a personal challenge into something with stakes that are quite a bit higher. A perfect read for anyone who is immersed in college applications and is looking to see the lighter side of the admissions process.

From Classic to Contemporary: Persuasion to For Darkness Shows the Stars

Classics — whether they are novels, plays, or epics — offer us great characters, interesting plots, and lots of things for discussion … but sometimes they can be a little tough to tackle. Sometimes we adore them, but sometimes we can’t get past page 3, let alone the requisite 50. That doesn’t mean that we should give up what they have to offer, though, does it? Many of today’s authors try to use these classic works as a starting-off point to write a more modern version. If done well, these contemporary versions can have a huge impact and impart the same wisdom that made the earlier story gain its classic status. Jessica Pryde and I decided to find and examine some great pairs of classics and their contemporary rewrites to see if they are successful … or maybe not.

The Classic: Persuasion by Jane Austen

You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone forever.

persuasionAnne Elliot had once been happily betrothed to a poor but kind naval officer, Frederick Wentworth. When both her family and a trusted friend objected to the match, however, Anne broke the arrangement and spent the next nine years deeply regretting her action. When Wentworth reemerged a newly rich and successful Captain after the Napoleonic Wars, Anne’s family was on the brink of financial ruin. To help defray costs, they’d rented their home and lands to Wentworth’s sister. Forced to be in each other’s company once again, Anne and Frederick must each decide whether they can be persuaded to put aside their own hurt and mistrust to reconcile with the one person they each treasured the most.

Beyond Young Adult Literature

There has been a lot of buzz in the world of young adult literature about a possible new category: new adult fiction. This is designed to “bridge a gap” between young adult fiction and adult fiction and is often characterized as featuring college-aged protagonists. Some say it’s a niche thing that will never really gain enough traction to make it a big deal. Some call it a marketing ploy. Others, especially readers on the Internet and those who note the percentage of adults who read young adult fiction, think it’s a category with a lot of potential.

adult cereals by flickr user yadniloc
adult cereals by flickr user yadniloc

Whether or not new adult literature becomes a widely accepted category (the way young adult fiction has) is not the point of this post, however. Instead, I want to share books written for the adult market by popular young adult authors and books that are shelved in the adult literature section but that are about teenage protagonists and would appeal to fans of YA.

It Matters If You’re Black or White: The Racism of YA Book Covers

Whitewashing in YAMost of the time, I love young adult literature and am proud to be a YA librarian. But there’s usually a moment once a month when I feel sick, tired, and embarrassed to be working with YA books for a living — and that’s when I flip through my stack of review journals and see a menagerie of gorgeous white girls staring back at me from the covers of upcoming releases.

If a YA book features a white, female protagonist (and this accounts for a not insignificant portion of YA released each year), it seems inevitable that the book cover will display an idealized and airbrushed masterpiece of her on the cover. And when a YA book actually does have a protagonist of color, too often one of three things seems to happen:

  1. The cover is “whitewashed” and shows a Caucasian model instead of a person of color;
  2. The cover depicts someone whose race seems purposefully ambiguous or difficult to discern; or
  3. The character is shown in silhouette

These forms of racism on the part of publishers are unacceptable. And the fact that it is so rampant within the young adult publishing industry seems particularly despicable. The first step toward change is awareness, and so below I’ve tried to pull together a collection of examples of these forms of subtle and not-so-subtle racism. If you have other examples, please share them in the comments.

Boy or Girl? Gender-Neutral Names in YA Novels

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

As an admitted name nerd, I’ve noticed a trend in YA fiction recently: lots of characters sporting gender-neutral names. Gender-neutral names aren’t new: Morgan, Ashley, and Kelly crossed over from the boys’ side during the mid-20th century, for example, and the gender-neutral naming scene really exploded in the 1980s. Nor is this trend unique to YA literature: we see it in all segments of entertainment and everyday life. (Remember when Taylor Swift and Taylor Lautner were dating?) But even though it may not be a new trend, it seems like gender-neutral names are popping up more and more in YA books these days.

So what’s the psychology behind authors giving their characters gender-neutral names? A quick Internet search yields results lauding their “uniqueness,” which speaks to a common desire to use a name that’s memorable — something that stands out. It seems parents often hope to lend their daughters an air of strength by giving them traditionally male names. It’s likely that authors do it for the same reason: to make their character sound strong, maybe even a little edgy. Maybe there’s a certain “cool” factor when a girl has a name typically reserved for boys, as if she’s gained entry to some secret, heretofore off-limits club.

Personally, I wonder if authors feel more free to experiment with character names than they would with actual children, because that “baby” will never grow up to rail against their name. Could it be a bit of fantasy indulgence? The same author who might name a real-life daughter Elizabeth or Abigail could very well name a fictional heroine Rowan or Blake without worrying about the consequences of a nontraditional choice.

Let’s take a look at some of the gender-neutral character names in recent YA novels:

Three Unconventional Jane Austen Adaptations

In one of my first posts on The Hub, I mentioned that I enjoy the notion of synchronicity. If you hear about something over and over from seemingly unrelated sources, it’s worth making a connection. Once three similar things get my attention, they begin to coalesce. Here’s my latest occurrence: Jane Austen, outside the box.

Jane Austen adaptations are ubiquitous, and a lot of them are pretty similar. This is not really a bad thing. The stories are captivating and the characters are familiar enough to feel like family. Curiosity about which particular details each adaptation will highlight is enough to intrigue me into almost any version of an Austen story. These, however, are something more.

Diana Peterfreund’s For Darkness Shows the Stars is a science fiction story inspired by Jane Austen’s Persuasion. The fact of this alone is intriguing. The execution is a balanced blend of original and adapted ideas, science fiction world building and heart-wrenching romance.

The apocalypse in this world was caused by genetic experimentation. In the generations since the Reduction, much of the human population is reduced in intellect, while a class of technology abstaining Luddites rules. In recent years, Post-Reductionists, normal children born to the Reduced, are coming into being. Elliot, the daughter of a Luddite plantation owner, exchanged letters from the age of six with Kai, the son of a mechanic. They fell in love as young teens, and Kai asked Elliot to run away with him. Elliot said no. She could not leave the plantation’s inhabitants to her uncaring father’s whims. For four years, Elliot has done her duty despite her broken heart.

When the Cloud Fleet comes to rent her family’s land for ship building, they bring Captain Malakai Wenforth along with their unprejudiced ideas about technology. Kai has changed so much — time and heartbreak have pushed him far away from Elliot — but their chemistry is undeniable. Each chapter begins with letters between Elliott and Kai from when they were younger, giving context to the depth of their relationship and their world. The bulk of the story is narrated by Elliot, allowing the reader to closely follow her range of emotions at having Kai in her life again, while leaving Kai’s feelings and motives mysterious. In addition to borrowing their delayed love story, Peterfreund’s characters borrow their names from Austen’s Anne Elliot and Frank Wentworth. As Elliot struggles over her feelings for Kai, her people struggle between the safety of tradition and the risk of scientific experimentation. Peterfreund is writing another book set in this world. Across a Star-Swept Sea, due to come out next year, takes its inspiration from The Scarlet Pimpernel.

Books That Make You Want to Take on “The Man”

It may come as no surprise to you, the savvy reader, that there has been a huge influx of  dystopian novels in young adult in the last year or so; even before the huge success of the Hunger Games movie could be considered a catalyst for new readership, publishers began to capitalize on our society’s interest in the future. This type of novel taps into readers’ uncertainty and curiousity about the future. It can also stick with a reader, leaving that cold feeling in your gut … leaving you in a fervor, ready to take on the government that may have taken that one final step over “the line that shall not be crossed.” Or at least that’s what dystopias do to me! These are some perfect examples of books that gave me that hard gut feeling and left me wanting to take on “The Man.”

Legend by Marie Lu
In a future where the United States has been broken into warring “states,” the Republic is home to a militia that strives to keep its country at the top. June is a military prodigy being groomed to become one of the Republic’s top military officials. When her brother is murdered, though, she crosses paths with her country’s most dangerous and wanted criminal, a boy named Day. As the two become embroiled in a scheme to clear his name and to hunt  down her brother’s killer, they uncover a shocking truth about the lengths their government will go to to ensure its occupants compliance.

When I discovered that the government was tampering with a very basic human need and that people were dying because the government needed both information and complacency, I was stunned and horrified. I gasped along with the characters and found myself pounding on the steering wheel (I was listening to the audio book version) in anger. My gut screamed for satisfaction and I fervently wish June and Day success in their fight against the Republic in the upcoming sequel, Prodigy.