YA Literary Trope: The Buried Memories

Welcome back readers! We are wrapping up our on-going discussion of literary tropes: common recurring themes found in YA literature.  So far we have examined The Old Clunker I Drive, The I Already Know you Introduction, The I Have to Take Care of my Parent(s), The Manic Pixie Dream Girl (and Boy), the A-Hole Friends, the Awesome Outfit, The Repressed Protagonist , and The Goofball Best Friend.  All good things come to an end.  But before we say goodbye to these weekly tropes, let us not forget: The Buried Memories. BEWARE, SPOILERS AHEAD!

YA Literary Tropes The Buried Memories YALSA the hub

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart.  Cady has always spent her summers on the private island off the coast near Cape Cod with her wealthy family plus a “special” family friend.  But something happened two summers ago– and Cady cannot remember.  According to her mother, Cady has been told the truth of what happened that night over and over, and everytime she forgets again.   So, she returns to the island to try to dig up her memories.  No matter how many times I re-read this fantastic tale, I cannot help the shock I feel when Cady remembers the truth.

Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black.  Hazel and Ben grew up in Fairfold; a small town like many others.  Except for the Fairies, they live there too.  Oh, and there is a boy encapsulated in time asleep in a glass coffin in the woods.  Usually the humans and the others live in symbiosis in Fairfold.  But there are attacks. There are unexplained disappearances.  When the siblings were younger, Hazel toted a antique sword and pretended to be a Knight while Ben played his flute and “enchanted” the monsters.  But something happened, and now Hazel is just an average girl and Ben never plays music anymore.  Hazel navigates her way through the murkiness of fairy rules and memories taken from her, and what she learns is shocking. Continue reading YA Literary Trope: The Buried Memories

YA Literary Trope: The A-Hole Friend(s)

Welcome back to another exploration of common themes found in young adult literature.  We have already discussed some fun literary tropes including The Old Clunker I Drive, The I Already Know You Introduction, The I Have to Take Care of my Parents, and The Manic Pixie Dream Girl (and Boy.)  Today we will examine a not-so-nice trope: the A-hole friend(s).  Let’s talk about those jerks who steer our protagonists astray.  Those bullies who taunt, tease, and torture others.  This trope can be hard to read– a good writer (such as those I mention below) make these a-holes so true to life we palpably hate them.

YA Literary Tropes A Hole Friends

  • Before I Fall (2011 Best Fiction For Young Adults, 2011 Teens Top Ten) by Lauren Oliver: Elody, Ally, and (most of all) Lindsay.  Actually Sam, the narrator of this extraordinary book, is also kind of an a-hole.  The foursome are your typical High School popular mean girls.  They are beautiful. They laugh loudly. They target an innocent girl and bully her for years. They drink and drive fast (and pay for it.)  Sam seems to consider herself a bystander in a lot of this a-hole behavior, but as the book goes on she learns more and more how her behavior affects others.

Continue reading YA Literary Trope: The A-Hole Friend(s)

Scary Stories to Set the Mood for Halloween

If you are like me, you’ve been ready for Halloween since August 1st. Not everyone is so Halloween-happy. Maybe you haven’t bought out the grocery store’s stock of canned pumpkin or purchased a new shade of orange nail polish, but, like it or not, October is upon us, which means you may have teens swarming your stacks in search of something to creep them out and give them nightmares. In my experience I get more requests for “scary stories” than horror novels.  With that in mind I’m going to highlight some collections of short stories sure to meet various spine-chilling needs as well as give some horror specific readers’ advisory tips.scary stories for halloween

Remember-

  • “Scary” is subjective. Every reader is going to be comfortable with different levels of the supernatural, violence, gore, etc. A good way to assess what type of horror a reader wants is to ask them what their favorite scary book is. If they are not an avid reader you may need to ask about their favorite scary movie or scary television show. You are probably going to want to recommend a different book to a fan of The Sixth Sense than you would to a fan of Saw.

 

  • If you are not a horror reader yourself or get scared easily, it’s OK for you to tell teens this. Particularly with younger teens this may help them to be more open about how scary they want their stories to be. If you aren’t a horror reader, however, you will want to familiarize yourself with the popular horror titles in your collection. If you can pick the brain of a fellow staff member or teen volunteer who reads a lot of horror, this is a great start.

Continue reading Scary Stories to Set the Mood for Halloween

We Can Do It! Feminist Literature for Teens

photo by flickr user Trishhhh
photo by flickr user Trishhhh

Are we in the dog days of summer, dear Hubbers? It sure feels like it! One thing I know is I sure missed writing for all of you; I’m glad to be back! So, this was a post I was going to write a couple of months ago when the word “feminist” was all in the news thanks to Beyoncé and Taylor Swift. It still kind of is in the news, and I think it’s a very important and relevant topic even though we’re not necessarily talking about it incessantly.

Anyways! Feminist teen literature. I’ve been noticing that a lot of new teen books are being marketed as feminist literature for teens which intrigued me, and I happened upon this article that piqued my interest even more: Book Riot – Feminist Teen Lit. They had so many good recommendations, so I chose a brief few from their list to see what was up.

Now, I know what a feminist is, and I’m proud to call myself one. But, I wondered – what makes a book a feminist book? Are they only stories narrated by girls or women (kind of, but not always)? Are they only powerful and sad stories where the main character goes through a traumatic event and grows through the healing process (sometimes, but not always)? I was so excited to find out the answers to those questions that I decided to dive right in to the books I added to my to-read stack, and I’m happy to share those awesome books with you today.

These books are great reads for anyone who loves stories about strong characters; stories who don’t portray or see women and girls only in relation to or as defined by the men and boys in their lives. These are stories of fully formed people who see the strengths and weaknesses in each other as humans, not in relation to their gender. On a side note, I work with a teen who is a member of the feminist club at her high school (how I wish I’d had one of those!), and she has been thoroughly enjoying these books which range from comedy to dystopian to mystery to a story of pain and redemption. Well, let’s get started, shall we? First up! My favorite book that I’ve read so far this year!

The Walls Around UsThe Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma: Oh my goodness, you guys. This book is spectacular – really unbelievably wonderful. It’s the story of 3 girls – Violet, Amber, and Orianna – the journeys they will take in their lives, and the paths that have already been established for them. Violet is a ballerina, and Orianna used to be. Orianna was the best ballerina at their school until she was sent to prison for the murder of girls who were tormenting Violet…the same prison where Amber is serving her sentence for killing her abusive stepfather. But, what really happened between Orianna and those other ballerinas, Amber and her stepfather, Violet and Orianna? And, what is happening to Amber as she starts to see the prison in a different light after a very timely and suspicious lightning storm one night. Readers will be glued to their seats to not only see how the story turns out, but also to see how these 3 girls will all become part of each other’s past, present and future.  Ugh!  I can’t say anymore or it will just totally ruin the whole experience for you.  Trust me – you just have to accept that you don’t have to know everything going into this story. However it turns out, these well-developed and realized girls aren’t totally perfect and they aren’t totally flawed, but indicative of real people whose actions, emotions, and lives are highly nuanced. A haunting read that will stay with readers, well, let’s just say, forever. I read it a month ago, and I’m still thinking about it!! Continue reading We Can Do It! Feminist Literature for Teens

No Cheap Thrills Here: Complex, Character-Driven Thrillers

8111546235_3ba86e43cf_m
image from AshtonPal’s flickr

As many of my posts here at The Hub illustrate, I am a longtime fan of genre fiction.  My teenage reading habits primarily focused on several kinds of genre fiction including historical fiction, fantasy, and mysteries & thrillers.  I have a particular fondness for that final category as it is also one of my father’s favorite genres and we continue to trade off book recommendations to this day.  Accordingly, I’m always on the look out for new titles to read and to recommend to my equally suspense-addicted students.

As I expressed in my post about the particular appeal of Veronica Mars last spring, I especially enjoy genre fiction that takes advantage of its particular structure and characteristics to tackle larger topics and issues and tell complex stories in a fresh way. So I’ve been thrilled to see an especially rich crop of recent young adult novels that capitalize on specific qualities of the thriller subgenre to tell stories about the complicated intersections between gender, class, race, sexual orientation, mental health,  sexuality, violence, innocence, guilt, and justice.  These novels take advantage of careful pacing to build suspense and hook readers from their opening lines.  Each features narrators hiding secrets from other characters, from the reader, and from themselves.  These novels will not only keep you on the edge of your seat; they will also leave your mind spinning and buzzing for days afterwards.

FarFromYouFar From You – Tess Sharpe

Sophie is a survivor.  She survived a nasty car accident when she was fourteen and the brutal prescription drug addiction that followed.  Then when Sophie and her best friend Mina were attacked by a masked man in the woods, Sophie survived–and Mina didn’t.  To make everything worse, everyone believes that it’s Sophie’s fault that Mina is dead; the police decided that the attack was a drug deal gone wrong and accordingly all fingers pointed towards Sophie.  So even though she’d been clean for months before the murder, Sophie was shipped off to rehab and told be glad it wasn’t juvie.  But now Sophie’s back and she determined to find out the truth behind Mina’s murder.

complicitComplicit – Stephanie Kuehn

It’s been two years since Jamie saw his magnetic and frightening sister Cate and that’s precisely the way he’d like the situation to remain.  But then his parents tell him that Cate has been released from jail where she’s been serving time for her role in a local barn fire that killed several horses and left another girl severely burned.  Now it seems that Cate wants to see him and Jamie is beyond freaked out.  Even after years of therapy, Jamie hasn’t been able to shake his strange bouts of amnesia and the occasional & unpredictable loss of sensation in his hands and the specter of Cate’s return only exacerbates his symptoms.  Determined to gain some control, Jamie begins to dig deep into his past and his memories with possibly devastating consequences.

PointePointe – Brandy Colbert

Theo is finally starting to get her life in order again.  Her ballet instructor has singled her out as one of her top students and told her to seriously consider auditioning for specialized summer programs. It’s looking like her dreams of becoming one of the few African American professional ballet dancers might be in reach.    She’s eating again, she’s got some great friends, and she might be on the verge of something special with an almost appropriate guy.  Then Donovan Pratt returns.  Before he disappeared a few years ago, Donovan was Theo’s best friend.  And now Theo has all sorts of long buried memories bubbling up–including memories of her first boyfriend, a much older guy who disappeared around the same time as Donovan.

walls around usThe Walls Around Us – Nova Ren Suma

Amber and Violet live in separate universes. As a longtime inmate at Aurora Hills Secure Juvenile Detention Center, Amber understands its rules and the subtle social dynamics.  She treasures the brief moments of freedom in their strictly controlled lives–like the night when all the doors opened.  Meanwhile, Violet thrives on the very different but equally rigid routine of intense ballet training.  She’s counting the days until she can be free of the ugly events of a few years ago and make her escape to Juilliard.  But while their lives seem worlds apart, Amber and Violet’s stories are inexorably intertwined by twisty web of secrets, broken friendships, murder, guilt, and innocence–all centered on Ori, Violet’s best friend and Amber’s cellmate at Aurora Hills.  As she has with her earlier novels, Nova Ren Suma infuses this fascinating narrative with carefully orchestrated elements of magical realism.

Happily, this trend doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon.  Lauren Oliver’s newest novel, Vanishing Girlsexplores a complicated relationship between estranged sisters through the lens of a page-turning mystery.  Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton (May 2015) uses the high stakes competition and personal drama of an intense New York City ballet school as the setting for an adrenaline-fueled exploration of three different girls’ quests for dancing stardom. In June, The Devil You Know by Trish Doller and Delicate Monsters by Stephanie Kuehn both burst onto the scene and promise to bring mind-bending thrills and thought-provoking chills along with them.

-Kelly Dickinson, currently reading The Sweetheart by Angelina Mirabella and The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson

We Are Family: Sibling Stories in YA Lit

we are family imageI did not begin my career as an older sister on a very positive note. In fact, it is difficult to find an video of my brother’s infant years without having the footage interrupted by a bouncing three-year-old who springs into the frame to sing out some variation of “Look at me!”

Happily, despite some rough patches, my relationship with my brother is one of the most stable and significant aspects of my life.  He’s my friend, fellow sci-fi television & folk music fan, joint owner of favorite childhood books, cooking idol, and one of my all around favorite people on the planet. Consequently, I have a soft spot for stories featuring siblings.  Just as there are many different kinds of families and individuals, so too are there many different kinds of sibling relationships and all are complex & fascinating.

personal effectsPersonal Effects – E.M. Kokie (2013 Best Fiction For Young Adults; 2013 Rainbow List)

Since his beloved big brother T.J. was killed in action in Iraq, Matt has been moving through his quickly collapsing life in a daze.  Between failing classes, getting in fights at school, and trying to avoid his dad’s anger and disappointment, Matt feels like his purpose disappeared with T.J.  But when his brother’s personal effects are finally delivered, Matt is convinced that he might finally be able to understand T.J.’s death.  But T.J.’s possessions contain certain shocking revelations that force Matt to wonder how well he really knew his brother.

imaginary girlsImaginary Girls – Nova Ren Suma (2014 Outstanding Books for the College Bound)

It isn’t uncommon for younger siblings to believe that their elder sisters are extraordinary, but Chloe knows she’s far from the only person to recognize that her sister Ruby’s someone special. Ruby is the girl that everyone longs to touch–the girl everyone wants to be.  When Ruby wants something to happen, it does.  She’s untamable, unpredictable, and almost unbelievable.  But after a night out with Ruby & her friends went horribly wrong, Chloe was sent away. Now, two years later, they’re reunited–but Chloe can’t help wondering exactly how far Ruby was willing to go to get her back.  Continue reading We Are Family: Sibling Stories in YA Lit

Best Books You’re Not Reading: Haunted by a Book Edition

scarytreeinmoonlightWhen I started reading Nova Ren Suma’s new book, 17 & Gone, from the first paragraph I sensed that this would be a haunting book, one that would stay with me long after I closed the cover. It gave me the idea of building a blog post around the books that have haunted me over the years — the ones where characters and scenes continue to resonate in my mind and heart, even many years later when I can’t recall every detail.

So here are some books published for teens (though I cheated and included a children’s book) that have haunted me — some I read during my own teen years, others as recently as last year. Some of my haunting books are ones that would be familiar to many readers (The Giver, The Diary of Anne Frank, A Ring of Endless Light…), so I’ve tried to stick to more obscure titles, in keeping with the title and mission of this column — which means that some of them are out of print. However, many are likely to be available either at your local library or at used bookstores.

This list is a very personal one — someone else, someone who reads more contemporary YA, or who is less squeamish about horror — might have a very different list of haunting books.

Here’s the list, in chronological order of when I read them:

Continue reading Best Books You’re Not Reading: Haunted by a Book Edition