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Tag: John Barnes

Teen Perspective: Three Reasons to Read

[Today’s post is by Lauren, an 8th grader. Thanks for sharing your perspective with our readers, Lauren!]

ya fictionIt’s not really a big deal when someone says to me, “I don’t really read books that often.” Alright, so it might be a small deal. But when I hear a fellow classmate say, “Books,” (pause for obnoxious laughter), “who reads those!” I feel like grumbling. Grumbling is not particularly attractive, mind you, therefore I try not to do it.

When people insult the thing I spend most of my free time doing, my grumbling feels slightly justified. How can someone disregard the slight whoosh when strolling through the automatic doors of the totally not dusty and old but actually super amazing library? The overwhelming sense of being surrounded by so many lives full of emotion and tragedy and inside jokes? How can someone not be in awe of how these incredible people called writers have managed to harness meaningless words and turn them into your best friends?

In case you are one of those people who are unfamiliar with these feelings, I’ll give three reasons why reading is cool and two books worth checking out.

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Showing Our True Colors: YA Covers That Got it Right in 2012

Publishing companies aren’t putting out enough YA titles that feature protagonists of color. And when they do, some book covers try to hide or obscure the characters’ race by showing them in silhouette or in shadow, or at times whitewashing them completely. Even the most diverse library collections sometimes look homogenous when you just see the covers. Don’t believe me? Check out my post from last week: “It Matters If You’re Black or White: The Racism of YA Book Covers.”

The problem is insidious, but it’s not completely pervasive, as many of you pointed out in the post comments last week. There are a lot of publishers, authors, and books that have no problem putting people of color on the covers of their books. So I just wanted to take a moment to recognize and celebrate those folks who understand how important it is for everyone to be able to see their own identity validated on the cover of a book. Here are some books covers that got race right in 2012.

Ichiro by Ryan InzanaA.D.D.: Adolescent Demo Division by Douglas RushoffNever Fall Down by Patricia McCormickBoy21 by Matthew Quick

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31 Days of the Next Big Thing: More Science Fiction for Teens? Make it So!

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.

Back in May The Hub tackled upcoming trends and I mentioned that “straight-up, non-dystopian, space-ships-and-aliens science fiction for teens” was a trend I saw coming, though I also noted that it was possibly wishful thinking. Being a card-carrying, president-of-the-science-fiction-and-fantasy-club-in-high-school SF fan, I’ve complained a lot in the recent past about the dearth of good YA science fiction, and while I’ve enjoyed a lot of the recent dystopian and post-apocalyptic titles, what I was really craving were the kind of books I read growing up, only new. And for teens. I’m thinking of authors like Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, William Sleator, John Christopher, Frank Herbert, Anne McCaffrey, and Andre Norton or books like A Wrinkle in Time, Ender’s Game, The Martian Chronicles, Lord of Light, Earthseed, and so many others.

Six months and a dozen new SF titles later I think this is an honest to goodness trend, and I couldn’t be happier. 

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What’s Next for Printz Award Winners?

Winning the Michael L. Printz Award is the highest honor a writer for young adults can achieve. Some authors like John Green receive it for their first book (2006’s Looking for Alaska). I can’t speak for any of the winning authors and say that they aim for a Printz winner every time, but there have been a number of multiple winners in the relatively short time the award has been given since 2000. After winning a 2000 Printz Honor for Skellig, David Almond won it again in 2001 for Kit’s Wilderness. John Green followed his 2006 Printz win with a 2007 Printz Honor for An Abundance of Katherines. Even if they don’t win the award, all the winning authors have continued to publish an extraordinary body of work.

I just finished Adam Rapp’s newest, The Children and the Wolves. I feel like I always feel after I’ve finished one of his books: like I’ve been punched in the gut. Love him or hate him, his books illicit a strong response. Like 33 Snowfish and Punkzilla (a 2010 Printz Honor title) and Rapp’s other works, it’s a realistic, gritty story about kids who are marginalized by society–whether it’s because they are from broken families with parents just scraping by or too wealthy and self-centered with their own lives and careers to pay attention to their brilliant but troubled children.

Wealthy Carla (AKA Bounce), 14, is super-smart with a sociopathic love for violence (she loves extreme fighting, especially cage fighting) and a fascination with opening up animals’ innards to see what make them tick. She’s persuaded two 7th grade outcasts, Wiggins and Orange, who can’t resist her allure, and her prescription drugs, to kidnap a 3-year-old girl they call Frog and hold her hostage in Orange’s basement. Bounce was inspired to kidnap Frog after a local poet spoke to her Honors English class and railed against mass consumerism like TV, the internet, fast food, and the other evils that are imprisoning and limiting everyone’s freedom. Bounce likes mass consumerism, so she decides to kidnap Frog, then collect money on her behalf by using it to publicize the child’s disappearance and use it to buy a gun and make the author disappear.

The characters take turns narrating each chapter as the events unfold. Reading Rapp can be like watching a car wreck. You want to turn away, but you are compelled to keep reading. You keep hoping his troubled, immoral, and delusional characters will redeem themselves even as you know that, like life, there are no guarantees of a happy ending for any of his characters.

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