Ah, winter! Perfect for marathon reading sessions indoors, bundled against the blustery elements. Whether you have several whole weeks out of classes, or just a few extra days here and there to fit in some seasonal festivities and max out your relaxation, there’s nothing like a winter’s day off for disappearing into another world for the entirety of a story’s arc, however many volumes it takes.
There are lots of definitions floating around for “binge reading.” Some indicate that it’s about cramming to meet a reading deadline, or skimming as much and as fast as possible. Others look to the new(ish) tradition of binge-watching TV series in marathon installments to describe a similar commitment to reading in large doses, especially within the same series. It’s this last definition that really appeals to me: binge-reading as an intensive, immersive experience for hours and hours (or even days and days) on end. Series titles lend themselves admirably to this sort of extended reading escape. Binging on a series lets you completely submerge yourself in another world, spend inordinate amounts of time with your favorite (and most loathed!) characters, and learn how it all turns out in one fell swoop, all without interrupting the momentum of the plot, or muddying the motives of the characters in your mind with too long a pause between volumes.
So, to help you strategize your total reading immersion during this binge-reading (ahem, I mean holiday) season, here is a list of series worth disappearing into. To help prevent the dreaded, stomach-sinking realization that there are at least ten months between you and finding out what’s happened to your new favorite characters in the next book, every series on the list has every planned volume published. With one notable exception, because I just couldn’t help myself.
Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness (The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer, and Monsters of Men)
The first book in this pulse-pounding series (The Knife of Never Letting Go, a 2009 Best Books for Young Adults pick) launches readers into a world where the thoughts of all boys and men are audible to everyone around them; and all the girls and women have disappeared. The plot careens around with young Todd, our confused but generally well-meaning protagonist, and then pulls up at the edge of a serious cliffhanger of an ending; for your binge-reading enjoyment, make sure you have the next volume (The Ask and the Answer) lined up to keep going without pause! For readers who like their binge in auditory formats, The Knife of Never Letting Go was also a 2011 Odyssey Honor book. Continue reading Series Binge-Reading: The Perfect Activity for a Wintery Afternoon
It’s getting to be that time of year; the temperatures are falling, the edges of the leaves are crisping, football is revving up, baseball is winding down, and many of us are getting used to new teachers and new classes.
To help take the sting out of the end of summer (goodbye till next year, reading on the beach with an iced tea…), I like to throw myself into celebrating the beginning of fall (hello again, curling up in an armchair with a hot chocolate while the rain falls outside!). For me, this means: new notebooks, adding apples to pretty much every meal, and diving into books that highlight all the little rituals of the school year. The following are some of my favorite titles with strong school settings, to help us all get excited for the new semester (even if we can’t actually enroll at Hogwarts, which would, let’s be honest, be the ultimate in back-to-school excitement).
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
Frankie is really smart (and unaccustomed to hiding her smarts in front of guys, even though sometimes they seem more comfortable if she does), dislikes accepting the status quo, is impatient with her dad’s secretive pride about his own halcyon days at her boarding school, and is (maybe) on the path to becoming a criminal mastermind- an idea she finds morally…ambiguous. A 2009 Printz Honor Book, Teens Top Ten pick, and National Book Award finalist, plus a 2013 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults title, this is one of those books I’m always bothering everyone I know to read.
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Speculative fiction disguised as a coming-of-age story, Never Let Me Go was an Alex Award winner in 2006, and has quickly become a modern classic. Following a trio of students through their years at a seemingly traditional boarding school, Never Let Me Go is about the complex hierarchies and subtle competitions between friends, but it’s also about how to get the truth from adults, and how to live with truths that are shockingly, fundamentally painful to process. Continue reading Back to (Realistic, but Fictional) School
As a follow-up to Hannah GÃ³mez’s post #DiversityatALA about the current movement to be vocal about the need for more diversity in YA literature (#weneeddiversebooks), and Kelly Dickinson’s post featuring LGBTQ titles, I’m here to list some upcoming YA books that contain non-white, non-heterosexual, non-cisgendered or differently-abled characters that you should be on the lookout for. If you are attending the ALA Annual Conference this weekend in Vegas, ask the publishers about ARCs for many of these. Not all of them will be available as ARCs because some aren’t being published until 2015, but publishers’ reps should still be able give you the scoop on them.
To start, I’m including a few recent notable books that you probably know about and a few that aren’t as obvious because the reviews might not have mentioned their diverse content, or you can’t tell from their jacket flaps.
Freakboy by Kristin Elizabeth Clark (2014 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults) is a novel about a transgendered boy while a strong pick for a nonfiction book about transgendered teens is Susan Kuklin’s Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out.
I wasn’t aware that the main character Chevron “Chevie” is descended from the Shawnee Native American tribe in Eoin Colfer’s Warp: Book 1 the Reluctant Assassin until I started reading it. The second book in the series, Hangman’s Revolution is coming out today. Park in Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (2014 Printz Honor book) is half-Korean.
In Stick by Andrew Smith the main character â€œStickâ€ is differently-abled because he was born without an ear & his older brother is gay. Chasing Shadows by Swati Avashi has a main character of Indian descent and there’s a lot about Hindu mythology in the book.
Padma Venkatraman’s A Time to Dance is about a classical Indian dance prodigy whose life seems to be over after she becomes a below-the knee amputee.
Erin Bow’s Sorrow’s Knot is a fantasy flavored by Native American cultures and Dark Metropolis by Jaclyn Dolamore features a lesbian character.
Now that you’re up to speed on recently-published diverse titles, here are some upcoming books with diverse content to keep an eye out for at ALA Annual and other conferences:
Girl From the Well by Rin Chupeco (Sourcebooks, August 2014) is a ghost story about Okiko, whose spirit has wandered the world for centuries delivering punishment to monsters who hurt children, but when she meets teenaged Tark, she tries to free him from the demon that invaded him.
Blind by Rachel DeWoskin (Penguin, August 2014) A 15-year-old teen girl loses her eyesight the summer before high school after a firecracker misfires into a crowd.
Positive: a Memoir by Paige Rawl (HarperCollins, August 2014) (NF). Memoir of Paige Rawl, HIV positive since birth, who was bullied in school once she disclosed her HIV-positive status and from that moment forward, every day was like walking through a minefield. Continue reading Diverse YA Titles to Look for at ALA Annual
June is Audiobook Month! Many of us have fond memories of being read to as a child, but did you know that you can still be read to? That is the value of audiobooks! The story comes alive and, with the right narrator, you can hear a story much more differently than you would reading it. Accents are perfected, exclamations are understood, and even words or names you may not know or have never heard before make sense to you. This is my second year evaluating audiobooks for YALSA’s Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults committee. As chair of this year’s committee, I am so excited for all the great audiobook-related things happening this month. Articles are being written about the importance and resurgence of audiobooks, you can get in “Sync” this summer and download free audios, and the audiobook circulation at my Library sees a nice increase starting in June with many people going on road trips and vacations.
To give you an idea of what makes an audiobook a good listen, here are some of the criteria that gets an audiobook on the Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults selection list:
The narration has to expand or compliment the original text. In other words, when you listen to a narrator tell the story, it comes alive and allows the you to experience the text in a different way.
Character voice variation is key! We must have a sense of who the character is by the different qualities in the voices that the narrator uses. For example, it is a lot more enjoyable when you are listening to a narrated conversation and can tell which character is talking without the text cues letting you know. Accents, exclamations, and sound effects also are considered. If done well, they really make an audiobook amazing!
There is also the importance of a match between the text and the narrator. You know when it is right; your ear picks it up. The narrator embodies the main character and sometimes even all the characters in the books.
The technical production on an audiobook is also a criteria for the Amazing Audiobooks list. We want to make sure the editing is done well, the sound quality is even, and that there are no issues with extra sounds or mike pickups. Additionally, we do consider the music that you hear at the beginning, end, or in between the tracks–does it match the story? Is it effective in heightening the story? If it is, then it just adds more quality to the production.
So, where should you start if you have never listened to an audiobook before? Well, some great awards and lists are put out every year: the Odyssey Award, the Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults annual list, and the Audies are a few places to start. Below I have compiled some of my favorites, that I think will be a great first listen for all of you who are new to audiobooks and want to give them a try.
X-Men: Days of Future Past was certainly the big hit at the box office this holiday weekend, raking in $111 million dollars over four days.
This makes it the fifth biggest Memorial Day weekend opening ever, which is quite the accomplishment for my favorite band of ragtag mutants. We first heard of the premise for Days of Future Past during the credits of the last Wolverine movie. This new X-Men film brings together our old cast of characters that we were introduced to 14 years ago with the new ones from X-Men: First Class (2011), who just happen to be the younger versions of the characters from 14 years agoâ€¦ Confused yet? Just wait until you get to the end of Days of Future Past. In fact, for an in-depth analysis of the ending to Days of Future Past and its timeline implications, check out this article from Entertainment Weekly.
The basic premise of the film is that the future has gone all-out genocidal on mutants and those that support mutant rights. The government started the Sentinel program as a way to specifically target the mutant gene, and thus kill mutants without collateral damage; however, the program pretty much led to the destruction of humanity as we know it. Pretty bleak future, so the X-Men send Wolverine back in time to try and alter it for the better of mankind and mutants alike. Wolverine is tasked with getting Magneto and Professor X to work together (no small feat there) to stop Raven/Mystique from killing Trask, the founder of the Sentinel program, which is apparently the catalyst for all of the future bad. As with any movie that involves time travel and the butterfly effect, the ending can make your brain hurt while you try to calculate just how much of the original X-Men timeline was impacted by this one movie. Although I have to say even with the brain freeze feeling it left me with, I was pretty satisfied with the whole shebang.
The trailer for the movie is here:
Since the X-Men films in general have never really stuck too close to their source material, I thought it would be more fun to do a “What Would They Read?” list of YA lit for my favorite band of mutants. The characters chosen for the list were the ones heavily featured in this particular film, so I apologize in advance to all of my fellow Rogue fans!
Magneto â€“The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi by Neal Bascomb (2014 YALSA Nonfiction Award) & â€œThe President Has Been Shot!â€: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy by James L. Swanson (2014 YALSA Nonfiction Finalist) When we first encounter Magneto in the film, he is stuck in a concrete prison underneath the Pentagon. For the simple reason that he has copious amounts of time, he gets two books on this list! The Nazi Hunters tells the story of Adolf Eichmann’s capture. Eichmann was the head of operations for the Nazi’s final solution and was finally found in Argentina 16 years later by Israeli spies. Given that Magneto’s background story is deeply entrenched in the WWII era as well as the Nazi concentration camps, this seems like the perfect read for him. Eric/Magneto dedicated his life to righting the wrongs done to him and others in those concentration camps, and it strongly shaped his distrust in governmental organizations. It seems only fitting that he would enjoy the story of how spies and survivors finally brought Eichmann to justice.The second book chosen for Magneto, â€œThe President Has Been Shot!â€ has more to do with his Days of Future Past plot line and why when we first encounter Magneto he is imprisoned underneath the Pentagon. Let’s just say that he would definitely enjoy this dramatic retelling of the events surrounding the Kennedy assassination. Continue reading What Would They Read? X-Men: Days of Future Past Edition
One of my favorite things to do with YA books, series especially, is to wait until all the books are out and then devour them in a manner of days or weeks. I’ll admit I did this with Harry Potter when I started reading them in . . . 2007, after the final book was finished! When you read series like this it lets them take over your life a little bit. Soon you are thinking in phrases from the books and seeing images from them everywhere. Even if it’s not a series that is finished, if it’s a book I like, I catch myself envisioning the books intersecting with my real life. I’ve wanted to have magical pigeon friends ever since reading Michelle Tea’s Mermaid in Chelsea Creek and I can’t see wishbones or puppets the same after reading Laini Taylor’s Daughter Smoke and Bone (one of the Top Ten 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults selections).
If I was more artsy, I would allow these book obsessions an artist outlet, but I’m not. Luckily, there this great thing called the Internet and wonderful artists who endeavor to make it more beautiful with art and more inspired by YA books! Fanfiction is a great way to respond to books as well, but I like how fan art opens up many different avenues of interpretations of your favorite characters. It allows us to stretch our visual perceptions of what those characters may be and maybe even help to us envision a world more clearly.
There are tons of places to find great fan art and other visual responses to YA books – even tattoos inspired by YA books as the website Forever Young Adult highlights. Other great places to look are deviantART, a place for digital artists inspired by anything and especially friendly to lots of fandoms. Tumblr is another great place to browse, but be warned that both places, like the unbridled and unexpected wilds of the Interweb, is not always safe for work or school.
If you are hanging around The Hub, chances are you’re a reader. And if you love to read, statistically speaking, you probably had a mom, or some other motherly figure, who read to you when you were small. (I know, I know, lots of you are screaming that it was your dad. This is Mother’s Day. Wait your turn.) So if you are still looking for a last-minute Mother’s Day gift, why not show your appreciation by introducing her to a YA mom as fabulous as she is? Just match Mom’s style to one of the titles below, each with one of the best mothers in YA and plenty of adult appeal. You may need to include a box of tissues!
For the Mess-with-My-Kid-and-I’ll-Take-You-Down momâ€”Divergent by Veronica Roth (2012 Teens’ Top Ten winner). It’s no secret that adults everywhere are devouring this series, especially since the movie came out, but fierce mothers will have a particular appreciation for Natalie Prior. Butâ€¦butâ€¦Tris’s mom is Abnegation, isn’t she? The picture of selflessness, she supports her children’s choices and wants what is best for them, even if it means watching them walk out of her life. But threaten one of her kids, andâ€¦let’s just say a whole other side of her comes out.
In honor of YALSA’s Teen Tech Week, I wanted to imagine some YA book characters using one of my favorite social media tools: Pinterest. Pinterest is a great way to create nice looking collections of Web sites you want to remember or images that inspire you.
Some of my fellow Hub bloggers and I had fun getting creative with this– take a look at some of our boards inspired by a few books and series. Click on the links or the pictures to see more pins!
Check out previous interviews in the One Thing Leads to Another series here.
Here’s a personal story. Almost five years ago now I was just finishing up back-to-back stints on selection committees as a member of the 2008 Michael L. Printz Award committee and then the 2009 Robert F. Sibert Information Book Medal committee. It was a heady time, made slightly more mad by the arrival of a new baby (our first–this is important) right in the middle of the process. That summer I found myself sitting in Chicago at a dinner hosted by Scholastic, trying desperately to engage in articulate adult conversation while totally consumed by the thought of my tiny daughter being so far away (ok, back at the hotel) in addition to being really, really tired and mostly incoherent. I was seated next to a very interesting author whose name sounded so familiar–I was sure I had a book or two waiting for me at home in the stacks of titles I’d had to hold off on reading while I finished committee work. She was young and cool and her editor was so excited about her forthcoming book (which sounded awesome) that even my unfounded parental worry couldn’t dampen his enthusiasm.
Obviously that author was Maggie Stiefvater, and obviously being completely freaked out about being away from my (new) baby for so long meant that I didn’t take advantage of the moment to hit her up for some awkward dinner conversation or polite small talk, which is just sad. Mostly I remember (through new mother haze) being sort of jealously appalled that someone who could draw so well (I think she was doing it at the table) was there to be honored for her writing. (I should also note that Maggie’s editor is David Levithan, who was sitting across from me. Hello missed opportunity!)
Anyway, after the conference I went home and dug Lament out of a pile of books and felt very sad indeed, because it was Excellent and I was sitting right next to her and could have said so, had I been capable of thought and/or speech. And that was before The Scorpio Races and The Raven Boys and all the rest. It was also before I fully realized the extent of Maggie Stiefvater’s ridiculous talent, so maybe it was for the best–I probably would have babbled. I mean, have you seen her book trailers?
Thank you, Maggie, for taking the time to answer my questions (especially the forty-point ones) and sorry for the terrible dinner conversation back in Chicago. I love your work.
Always Something There to Remind Me
Please describe your teenage self.
Sulky. Effervescent. Pugnacious. Push-over. Gloomy. Elated. Musical. Musical. Musical. I was a creature of opposites: black-hearted and belligerent or funny and warm — no one got both sides of me.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
The first thing I remembering wanting to be was a writer — books, especially, because books pleased me, and in my family, there was no difference between consuming a thing and making a thing. But I also wanted to be a screenwriter, because movies pleased me, and a cartoonist, because cartoons pleased me, and an animator, because animated movies pleased me, and a soundtrack composer and a pilot and a radio personality and a pastry chef and a rose breeder and — I wanted to be lots of things.
What were your high school years like?
Technically speaking, I had no high school years. I sort of had high school months, but those barely even counted. I was home-schooled from sixth grade on, and by the time I got to high school I was bored with it — school felt like practice for real life, and I’d wanted to start real life for a very long time. My high school books arrived and I just thought: no. I tested out of school (can you do that now? It sounds fishy) and went to college at age 16. That . . . was a thing.
I had a rather rough time with a lot of the men I encountered in positions of college power at the time, but I did have one history professor who was incredibly influential. I recall that in one of my classes, he gave me a B on a paper, and I marched into his office and hurled it on the desk and said “B!” He concurred. I spat, “Tell me anyone else in that class wrote a better paper than I did!” He said that he couldn’t. I said, “Then why!? Why did I get a B?” And he replied, “Because you could write a better paper.”
I’ve never forgotten that I’m only in competition with myself.