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Tag: matt de la pena

Women in Comics: Young Adult & New Adult Novels

If there has been one feature of every book that I have discussed in this series of posts, it is a focus on artwork. Even the one non-comic work included in these posts focused a significant amount of text on the artwork of Wonder Woman. But, this month, I am branching out from volumes focused on artwork to discuss an emerging trend – prose novels that are based on comic book characters.

cc image via Flickr user
cc image via Flickr user RyC

While this concept is hardly a new one, recently DC and Marvel have greatly expanded their offerings in this regard to include new adult (albeit not promoted by that name) and young adult novels. These novels can serve the dual purpose of introducing comic book characters and storylines to readers who aren’t comfortable with comics and graphic novels and encouraging comics fans to read works by leading young adult authors. Even more importantly, these novels are just a lot of fun! Right now, there are only a limited number available, but many more are appearing on the publishing horizon.

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Genre Guide: Action Novels

Books with lots of action are often a home run with readers, especially those who like a plot-driven story. They can cross a wide-range of genres, from spy fiction to murder mysteries.

Definition:
Action books are often very heavy on the plot with danger pulling the story forward, leaving readers on the edge of their seat desperate to know what happens next. Elements of risk and surprise are key factors in action stories. The events that trigger the action or danger are typically outside the protagonist’s day to day life. Often, at the end of the story, the hero or heroine is never the same.

Characteristics:
* Fast-paced
* Conflict
* Danger
* Risk
* Double-crossings
* Betrayal
* Villains
* Violence
* Survival
* Plot twists
* Underdogs

Appeal:
With action novels, readers quickly turn the pages – often reading these novels in a single setting. In a series, there is often an overall arc that ties all the books together, even though the primary plot of the book is resolved.

Actions books are perfect escapism reads; this type of story rarely happens in real life.

Readers like rooting for the underdogs. Often times these teen characters go against supposedly smarter more savvy adults and yet, they are victorious in their quest. It’s hard not to root for the underdog.

YA Action Adventure

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YA Titles Celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month

National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 to October 15) celebrates the heritage and culture of Hispanic and Latino Americans. September 15th is the anniversary of independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Mexico, Chile and Belize also celebrate their independence days during this month.The term Hispanic or Latino refers to Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race.

To commemorate this month, I am highlighting some of the recent and forthcoming YA books either written by, or about, Hispanic and Latino fictional or real characters.

Soulprint-199x300Megan Miranda’s Soulprint, published this past February, is about Alina, a half-Hispanic 17-year-old, who has been confined on a secluded island for most of her life. She’s not confined for a crime that she committed in her present life, but for the past incursions of her soul. In this novel set in the not too distant world, scientists have discovered a way to create a fingerprint called a  “Soulprint” of a particular soul that allows them trace its passage from individual to individual. Alina happens to possess the soul of the late June Calahan, a Soul Database hacker who blackmailed public figures with nefarious past lives. Broken out of prison by three strangers, Alina hopes to finally escape from June’s shadow and begin to live her own life, but her rescuers have ulterior motives.

huntedlivingMatt De La Peña’s The Hunted (published in May) is the sequel to the 2014 Pura Belpre Honor winner The Living (2014 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults). A tsunami has sunk the cruise ship Mexican-American teen Shy Espinoza was working on for the summer. He and teens Marcus and Carmen and their adult guide Shoeshine have survived the sinking ship; escaped an island harboring a deadly secret and survived over a month at sea. They have discovered that some of the passengers were working for an evil biotech company responsible for a deadly contagion ravaging Southern California. In an area of California patrolled by rival gangs, the dead and dying, and those desperate to survive, they struggle to make it to the nearest operating laboratory in Arizona. By bringing the chemical formula and samples of the vaccine there, they hope scientists will be able to duplicate the vaccine samples and save the population.

shadowshaperShadowshaper (June) by Daniel José Older is an inventive tale that combines contemporary and magical realism in a stunning way. Sierra Santiago, a graffiti artist, is stunned when she notices the murals in her neighborhood begin to weep real tears. Her ill grandfather gives her a strange warning and old men from her Brooklyn community begin mysteriously disappearing. After a zombielike corpse crashes a party one night and chases her, she and a cute guy from her neighborhood try to find out what’s going on and discover her family’s magical abilities. Sierra’s forced to do battle with a crazy anthropologist who wants that magical power for himself. What’s not to love about a kickass Latino heroine?

Photo Sep 12, 3 22 24 PMIn Adam Silvera’s More Happy Than Not (June), it’s been very hard for Puerto Rican Aaron Soto, 16, to find happiness since his father’s suicide and Aaron’s attempted coming out and subsequent rejection by the boy he likes and by his friends. The grief and the scar on his wrist prevent him from ever completely forgetting. Maybe the solution is to have The Leteo Institute erase parts of the memory, even if he risks severe amnesia and possibly death.

 

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One Thing Leads to Another: An Interview with Matt de la Peña

Check out previous interviews in the One Thing Leads to Another series here.

I remember thinking when Ball Don’t Lie came out that it was going to be a perfect book to share with the teen patrons of our library.  I hadn’t read it yet, but I booktalked it like crazy and honestly, it practically sold itself.  That book was always checked out.  I also remember when I moved from the public library to a high school library that it was literally one of the first books I ordered for the collection.  The school hadn’t had a librarian for eight years so there were a lot of holes to fill; Ball Don’t Lie was in the first order I placed.  Why? Because in between those two jobs I’d actually snagged a copy for myself, read it, and fell in love.  I was expecting to like it because the reviews were crazy good, and I was so happy to have what I thought was a book that filled a need, that would appeal to certain readers, a book about sports, with a memorable voice and great characters.  But it was so much more than I was expecting

It’s kind of funny that this particular book stands out for me, among the hundreds and hundreds of books I’ve purchased for various collections over the years, but it does.  I’ve been trying to figure out why, and I think it’s partly because even though I expected to like it, Ball Don’t Lie confounded all my expectations and (I hate to say it, but it’s true!) taught me a valuable lesson.  I dove into that book expecting to find a story I could wholeheartedly and enthusiastically recommend to others, but what I found was a story for me.

Ever since then Matt de la Peña has been on both my “books to recommend” list and my “must-read author” list, and he’s never disappointed.  In fact, just the opposite.  And that was before he  wrote some books about natural disasters (my obsession with natural disaster tales is a whole different post.)

Thanks, Matt, for taking the time to talk with me, and for earthquakes and sharks and biker gangs and Shy.  And thank you for Sticky and the quiet stories and for bouncing back and forth.

 

Always Something There to Remind Me

102MattPlease describe your teenage self.

I was a basketball junkie. I’d take buses to the best hoop courts in southern California to see what the regulars there were all about. I had no money. I never went to parties. I didn’t drink. I was a mediocre student who wrote secret spoken word poetry in the back of class. I was very into the ladies.

What did you want to be when you grew up? Why?

I couldn’t see that far ahead. My dream was to be the first de la Peña to go to college, and I needed basketball to pay my way. That was as far out as I could see. Every night I’d assess whether or not I got closer to my dream that day. I’d think about how cool it would be to go to college as I lay on the floor in my room, shooting a basketball up at the ceiling and letting it fall back into my hands. I wouldn’t let myself go to sleep until I did that for an hour.

What were your high school years like?

I liked school, but I also knew I was never going to get money for college because of my grades. I think I could have done really well in my classes if I would have spent more time on them. But I did the math. If I spent more hours on the game of basketball, I’d have a better chance of getting a free college education. It’s counterintuitive, I know. But I had to study less to go further academically. There were, however, a few teachers who “captured” me. English teachers. Mrs. Blizzard, my 11th grade English teacher was probably the most influential. She told me I was a great writer. And even though I didn’t believe her at the time, I loved her class. She allowed me to keep the school copy of The House on Mango Street

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YA Lit Symposium: YA Realness – What Makes Contemporary Realism Feel True to Readers?

YALSA_LitSymposium2014I began the first full day at the 2014 Young Adult Literature Symposium with a session that perfectly suited this year’s “Keeping It Real” theme.  Titled “YA Realness: What Makes ‘Contemporary Realism’ Feel True To Readers?” this Saturday morning session featured a self-moderated panel of established authors discussing a range of topics related to contemporary realistic fiction for young adults, including the genre’s authenticity, controversial topics, writing craft, and continued appeal to teens.

In many cases, a panel without a formal moderator could go horribly wrong, but the excellent crew of authors in this particular session instead created a casual and very thoughtful conversation about many aspects of contemporary realism. Matt de la Pena, Coe Booth, Sara Zarr, Sara Ryan, and Jo Knowles are all authors well-known for their varied, popular, and critically acclaimed works of contemporary realistic fiction written for and about young adults.

ya realness panel 2014
My sadly grainy shot of the excellent author panel in action!

lucy_variationsSara Zarr started the session off  by getting right to the most basic but unavoidable question: “How do you define ‘contemporary realism?”  She broke the ice by offering her own, excellent definition of the genre as a story that takes place more or less in the present in which nothing happens that could not feasibly happen in our world and nothing occurs that might violate the space-time continuum.  The other panelists chimed in, mentioning their emphases on honesty, emotional truth, and grittiness.  Matt de la Pena shared his usual response to questions concerning his preference for realistic fiction over fantasy: “I am so infatuated with the real world that I don’t go there [to supernatural creatures, etc.] creatively….you all have great stories in your lives, you just think they’re normal.”

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Mixed, But Not Mixed Up: Biracial Characters in YA Lit

I’m not that far past being a teen myself, but as someone who is biracial, I think today’s YA audience is a bit luckier than I am when it comes to finding someone who shares their background in a novel. Since teens of today have been allowed to identify legally as “more than one race,” it makes perfect sense that more YA novels have featured biracial characters.

The best part? Sometimes they don’t even have to be problem novels about racism. Progress, folks!

I presented research on this topic at YALSA’s YA Lit Symposium, and I still have plenty more titles on my reading list. I also discovered an academic text on being mixed race in YA (sadly, due to a half.com snafu, I have yet to read it): Mixed Heritage in Young Adult Literature by Nancy Thalia Reynolds (Scarecrow Press, 2009).

Here, though, are a few titles I’ve read thus far that your mixed and unmixed teens alike should find compelling and fun.

cuba 15 nancy osa cover

  • Cuba 15 by Nancy Osa (Delacorte Press, 2003) is about Violet Paz, a half-Cuban, half-Polish American girl whose family is insisting she have a quinceañero, or a traditional coming-out for girls when they turn 15. That would be fine, except that Violet’s father refuses to delve into his youth in Cuba, and Violet feels that it would be insincere to have a Cuban party when she knows next to nothing about Cuba. So she takes it upon herself to do a little research, at the risk of keeping secrets from her family. Osa’s approach to the topic is light, and you don’t have to be mixed to enjoy the book.
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31 Days of the Next Big Thing: Adventure Time!

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.

“Adventure” is one of those genre labels that, for me at least, gets murkier and less precise the longer I think about it. I start out excited to write about stories of exotic locales, heart-pounding action, and danger, danger, danger, and end up wondering if half of all contemporary YA fiction couldn’t be classified as “adventure.” I mean, look at the definition of “adventure fiction” provided by the WorldCat Genre guide: “works characterized by an emphasis on physical and often violent action, exotic locales, and danger, generally with little character development.” It’s kind of vague and I’m not sure I actually agree with it anyway.

The 2006 edition of Diana Tixier Herald’s Genreflecting posits that “the pure adventure, a story involving a hero (or heroine) taking risks and overcoming dangers to complete a journey or task, is a form on its own — and in fact, it is probably the oldest recorded genre in existence.” That sounds more like it, but applies to an awful lot of fiction and indeed, a quick Google search reveals an assortment of related or similar labels, things like Action-Adventure, Survival, Fantasy Adventure, and the like. If any story where action is at the fore and where the main character faces danger in the pursuit of a goal is considered “Adventure,” I have to wonder where one genre ends and another begins. Or if it even matters.

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Censorship in Tucson, Arizona: Exercise Your Rights

We all had the chance to celebrate the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week from September 24th to October 1st, 2011. During this time, readers of all ages were encouraged to read materials that were challenged for a variety reasons. Now, only a few months later, a new challenge to intellectual freedom has arisen in Arizona:

Tucson, Arizona, public schools suspended their Mexican-American studies program after an administrative law judge ruled it violated a new state law and the state said the local district was going to lose $15 million in annual aid, officials said. (CNN)

Basically the law prevents “ethnic studies classes that promote the overthrow of the U.S. government.” On January 31, 2012, the ALA announced that they were totally opposed to restricting books based on their cultural or ethnic content. Encouraged by ALA’s Freedom to Read Statement, which says, “No society of free people can flourish that draws up lists of writers to whom it will not listen, whatever they may have to say,” here is a list of books students in Arizona can no longer read.

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Like Tyrell, Love These Books

Right before winter break, I had a class come into the library to check out books for a free-choice reading unit they were going to start right after the holidays. One 10th grader who comes into the library almost every day to use the computers ended up checking out Coe Booth’s Tyrell.

The first day back from break, he was back in the library. But when I reached to get him a laptop, he told me that he didn’t want a computer–he wanted another book like Tyrell. I gave him her newest title, Bronxwood, but he was back again two days later to return that one, too, because he was already finished. He told me that he hadn’t read a book for “fun” since middle school.

Coe Booth’s books provide the perfect, gritty balance between hard and soft for a tough, but secretly sensitive, guy. There’s a backdrop of urban conflict: Tyrell’s father is in jail and his mother has a drug problem, leaving his family homeless and him to take care of his younger brother; he’s missed more school than he’s attended; his girlfriend doesn’t understand him. But ultimately it’s a story about a teenage boy falling for a girl and finding the courage to try to follow his own dreams–with some healthy contemplation of race issues.

The books below all follow this model. They’re about tough guys who can’t seem to stay out of trouble and have incredibly messed up home lives, but who find a certain amount of salvation in themselves (and from girls who are perhaps out of their league). If you have other ideas for what a Coe Booth reader might like, share them in the comments!

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