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Tag: Martine Leavitt

Dark and Bright YA Fiction: Spotlight on Two Canadian Authors

There’s lots to love in Canadian YA, but in the United States, we tend to focus more on authors originally published here. As a dual citizen, I am always pleased to see Canadian authors recognized in the United States too. This article describes selected titles by two award-winning Canadian authors. Expand your collection with Canadian titles that explore mental illness, substance abuse, homelessness, trauma, and more through nuanced characters, humane writing, and even humor!

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Bingewatching YA Read- Alikes

With all the ways to watch TV today including; on demand, DVR, and instant streaming it is possible to watch an entire series’ episodes back to back rather than in a serialized week to week format.  This kind of watching has been dubbed “binge-watching.”  Maybe when you hear this term, an image comes to mind of someone mindlessly watching hour after hour of TV whilst eating chips.   As fun as that sounds, “binge-watching” can also mean focusing on just one show over the course of many days or weeks.  As a reader the way I become immersed in the characters and world of a good book are a familiar, comforting feeling, and binge-watching a quality show can offer a similar (on-screen) experience.  Here are some great YA read-alikes inspired by some of my binge-worthy favorites.

Orange Is The New Black

Orange is the New Black – One of Netflix’s original binge-worthy series. This is the story of a Piper, a privileged woman who has to serve prison time for a crime committed in her 20s.

Read-alikes:

monster-walter-dean-myers

* Monster by Walter Dean Myers (2000 Printz Award Winner, 2000 Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers , 2000 Best Book for Young Adults) A story told in the form of a screenplay by a young man incarcerated in a juvenile detention center.

* Hole in my Life by Jack Gantos (2003 Printz Honor BookPopular Paperback for Young Adult 2006 , 2003 Best Books for Young Adults). When Gantos was a young man with heavy debt and a promising writing career he agrees to help sail a ship packed with drugs from the Virgin Islands to New York City.   This memoir describes this well known author’s short-lived criminal career and his incarceration.

* Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison by Piper Kerman. The book that inspired the show; Kerman tells the tale of how she spent a year in prison the humiliations she endured, and the relationships she forged.

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It Really Happened: YA Fiction Based on True Events

9781419710322_p0_v1_s260x420I wanted to write this mostly because of one YA writer who has begun the trend of basing her YA fiction books on real crimes. Initially, I thought I would focus on the increasing number of YA historical fiction books coming out that are based on true crime stories like the Jack the Ripper rip-off killings in Maureen Johnson’s Shades of London series. But, I realized that her books aren’t historical fiction, they are contemporary novels that contain events based on true historical events.  So, I will focus here mostly on contemporary YA fiction with elements based on true historical events – with a few exceptions (I can’t resist a book based on a true story where a woman pretends to be a man and gets away with it).

A Soldier’s Story: the Incredible True Story of Sarah Edmonds. A Civil War Hero by Marissa Moss (2012, pbk. 2014) is   is based on the true story of nineteen-year-old Sarah Emma Edmonds, who masqueraded as a man named Frank Thompson during the Civil War. Her adventures include serving as a nurse on the battlefield and spying for the Union Army, and being captured by (and escaping from) the Confederates. Sarah narrates her riveting story as she deals with the dangers of living a lie and the horrors of war and even the complications of romance while posing as a man.

The book includes real photographs taken from the Civil War. Moss states in the epilogue that the bones of the story are all true; she used actual names of the soldiers who served with Sarah and she used Sarah’s actual diary and that of others as primary source materials. She also says that of the over 400 women who dressed a man during the war, most shared with secret with loved ones. Only Sarah was known to have lived as a man before enlisting and the only one to be recognized by acts of Congress as an honorably discharged soldier.

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Novels in Verse for Poetry Month

national-poetry-monthYou are aware, I’m sure, that April is National Poetry Month. This brainchild of the Academy of American Poets has been celebrated since 1996, and the Academy’s website has a plethora of great ideas ideas of ways to celebrate, but why not celebrate by simply reading more poetry?

What’s that? Poetry is “too hard?” Do not fear iambic pentameter, sestinas, or villanelles! But if you would rather not attempt a sonnet, a haiku, or even a limerick, there is a great way to ease yourself into the world of poems: novels written in verse. The tales are so compelling and the verse so subtle, you won’t even realize you are reading poetry. Quite often, novels in verse tackle very hard subjects. It can be astonishing how authors cover deep, dark topics with just a few, perfectly chosen words.

Here are a few to get you started:

My Book of Life By Angel – Martine Leavitt mybookoflifebyangel
Angel is sixteen when Call gives her “candy” that makes her fly, and asks her to start sleeping with his friends. Soon, Angel is hooked on drugs and is working the streets as a prostitute. When Call brings home an even younger girl, Angel plans to escape this life she’s found herself in, and take young Melli with her. Leavitt’s books have appeared on multiple Best Books for Young Adults lists, and after reading her work, you will understand why.

freakboyFreakboy – Kristin Clark (2014 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults)
Brendan seems to be a guy’s guy. He’s a wrestler, has a lovely girlfriend, and loves video games, but deep inside, he wants long hair and soft skin and a curvy body. Brendan is transexual and he’s trying to figure out who he is. He has never met anyone else who is like him, and he is frightend that he is “not normal”, whatever that means.

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Across the Uni-Verse: Novels in Poetry, Part 2

4703932712_b3b6867d25There are a lot of things I appreciate that I can’t do. I think roller coasters are amazing, but they scare me. I also get wicked sick when I ride them. I love poetry but my attempts at verse are sadly lacking. I love novels written in verse. I actively seek them out to buy, read and share with others. It’s all a good outlet for lack of artistic prowess. To me it seems like books in verse transcend genre; they are their own format like graphic novels. The sparseness of the words allows the reader to get right to the heart of the story and all it’s emotional content.

I’ve already done one booklist of some of my favorite novels written with poetry, Across the Uni-Verse: Novels in Poetry. Here are some new books in verse to enjoy.

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O Canada: Canadian YA Authors

Canadian flagAsk anyone to name a Canadian author they’re familiar with. You might hear the names Lucy Maud Montgomery or Margaret Atwood. For a country that’s our neighbor and with whom we share ALA Conferences, we don’t know as much about their authors as we should — particularly YA authors. Maybe that’s because not everything published in Canada makes its way here. I realized this when I saw the ten books shortlisted for the Canadian Library Association (CLA) 2013 Young Adult Book Award. There were several I’d never heard of.

The finalists, in alphabetical order by author, are:

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