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Tag: Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults

Crossovers: It Happened to Me

Jon and David Kushner
David and Jon Kushner

Earlier this year, journalist David Kushner published his eloquent memoir, Alligator Candy. At the core of his story is a terrible crime. When Kushner was just four-years-old, he watched his older brother, Jon, ride away on his bicycle, never to return. Jon’s mutilated body was found later. At first, Kushner is a confused small boy missing his brother, fearing that he could have prevented the crime had he not requested candy from the store. Then, as a thirteen-year-old boy, he secretly begins reading accounts from the newspapers on microfilm at the library. There were details that he couldn’t have even imagined as a four-year-old boy.

After publishing several books and articles as an adult, Kushner was ready to write about Jon’s disappearance and murder. As part of his research, he received access to police records. He discovers details that are so horrific that he wonders how his family survived.  Kushner also realizes that while Jon’s disappearance and murder devastated his family, the entire community was deeply affected by the violence of the crime.

Crossovers: Call Me Unreliable

At first, there is a sense of, “what?…wait!” Something a character says, perhaps, that contradicts the words of the narrator. Maybe you suddenly realize that the narrator has never actually been in the green bedroom, or that she doesn’t speak unless her husband is there. Out of loyalty or expediency, we readers tend to accept our narrator’s version of events. But sometimes the author reveals hints that the narrator’s perspective may be a little…off. Once the suspicion is planted, the story becomes a wild thing, just as likely to conjure psychic terror as it is to end in benign misunderstanding. Here are three adult books with unreliable narrator that will appeal to teen readers.

girl on the traincartwheelhead full of ghosts

One of the most popular books of 2015 was Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train. What begins as a tale about a lonely woman who is mesmerized by young lovers seen daily as she passes by on her commuter train grows into an impossible series of coincidences and misunderstandings. Every character in the book is suspect. Readers come to realize that at least one person is lying, at least one person is delusional, and at least a couple of characters are dangerously violent. Hawkins deftly twists the readers’ loyalties, alternating between three unreliable narrators.

For the Love of Cats: Felines in YA Fiction

Last month I wrote about canines in YA literature. This month I want to give equal time to the felines. Firstly because I had the joy of growing up in a household of cats. Secondly, there are dastardly cat gangs out there which watch our every move, and I don’t want to get on their bad side. Or so goes the familiar negative image of cats in some popular lore. However, anyone who has actually shared their life with cats knows that this is not at all the reality. Each cat, like each dog, has its own characteristics, whether affectionate or independent, forgiving or wary. With that in mind, in the following list I’ve tried to include fiction titles which I feel are well-suited to teens and which include feline characters in a variety of roles and with a variety of personalities.

blacksadBlacksad (Blacksad series) by Juan Díaz Canales & Juanjo Guarnido

The Spanish Canales and Guarnido originally created their Eisner Award-winning detective noir graphic novel series for French readers, but the setting is early 1950s U.S. This first volume collects the first three issues, which include a murder mystery and stories concerning the effects of white supremacy on individuals and the Red Scare. Private Investigator John Blacksad is an unforgettable feline. Lucia Cedeira Serantes, in her summer 2005 Young Adult Library Services article “¿Es un Pájaro? ¿Es un Avión?.…Spanish Comics for American Libraries” mentions two of the issues in this volume as being among the best in graphic novels and comics from Spain. (Adult Graphic Novel)

Book of Night with Moon (Feline Wizards trilogy) by Diane Duane

This is the first novel in a series which combines science fantasy, adventure, horror and even humor. There is a secret civilization of cats in Manhattan complete with its own language, a glossary of which is included in the novel. When the world is threatened with invasion by monsters from the “Downside”, four cats – Rhiow, Saash, Urruah and Arhu — seek out the wizard responsible for the dire situation. The cats make interesting observations about the differences between human and feline culture. (Adult Fiction)

Contagious Passion: Characters Doing What They Love

“The things that you do should be things that you love, and things that you love should be things that you do.” -Ray Bradbury

Passion is contagious. I love hearing people talk about what they love. I’m sucked into their story, even if they are describing something I didn’t find remotely interesting prior to that moment. This is just as true for me in fiction as it is in real life. I am almost immediately won over by characters in a ruthless pursuit of a passion, whether it manifests in a career aspiration, hobby, vocation or, dare we say, calling. Below are just a few characters and their passions I have enjoyed sharing.

Labors of Love:

CathFangiFANGIRL_CoverDec2012-300x444rl by Rainbow Rowell

Cath is a passionate reader and a fan of the fantasy series featuring boy wizard Simon Snow. But Cath isn’t just a fan, she is an active participant in the fandom.  As “Magicath,” she writes Simon Snow fanfiction, first with her sister and then on her own. Writing fanfiction serves as an escape when her own life is difficult or lonely, and it’s Cath’s own fan base that, in part, helps her gain the confidence she will need to write original characters that tell her own unique story. Fangirl readers not only get to read Cath’s story throughout the novel, but her own Simon Snow fanfiction as well.

Will and her friendsWill and Whit by Laura Lee Gulledge; Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens

If I had to give an award for the most unique hobbies I have ever encountered in fiction, I would give it to Wilhelmina and her friends. As Will introduces her friends to the reader, one of the first things we find out about each of them is what they are passionate about.  Will makes her own lamps mostly out of objects found in her aunt’s antique shop, her friend Autumn practices puppetry, Noel is constantly baking, and his little sister Reece makes up-cycled jewelry.  Readers looking for a graphic novel offering some D.I.Y. inspiration need look no furNothing Can Possibly Go Wrong Coverther than Will and Whit. One thing I love about Will and her friends’ hobbies is the way they find ways to share them with their community.  When Hurricane Whitney sweeps through, causing a town-wide blackout, and leaving locals bored, Will and her friends each contribute their talents to a makeshift arts carnival. With a phobia of the dark and a tragic past, making lamps becomes a way for Will to cope with her fears and, eventually, process and express her emotions.

Nate, the robotics club, and the cheerleaders Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen, Illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks; Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens

Nate is president of the high school’s robotics club, a small but dedicated group, struggling for their school’s meager extracurricular funds.  Unfortunately, the school’s cheerleaders are just as dedicated and want the same funding for their cheer uniforms. Though the two groups initially have it out for each other, they become united by their lack of money, and use a cutthroat robotics competition as a last ditch effort to win prize money.  My favorite part of this graphic novel is that two groups bond over the fact that they both love what they do, even though what they love couldn’t possibly be more different. Nate and his friends have to deal with stereotypes surrounding what they love, but they fight them with an inspirational vengeance. (Cheerleaders are NOT dumb, and don’t EVER tell a girl that she shouldn’t be into robotics!)

Get Inspired: Journaling in YA Literature

journaling_ya_lit_credit_Fredrik Rubensson_outlineI’ve kept a journal on and off for years.  Well, mostly off– but I would like to write more regularly.  I believe that the first key to journaling is to set aside a certain time each day to write and stick to it.  Sometimes that time is hard to find when you are working and/or in school full time.  But now that it’s summer, if you’re someone who has a couple months off and a little extra time, this may be the perfect time for you to start a journal.  And please tell me if you do, because that will inspire me to spend more time on mine!

With inspiration in mind, I wanted to recommend a few current and classic YA novels which are either written as journals or include journal entries.

 

ramsey beyer little fishLittle Fish: A Memoir from a Different Kind of Year by Ramsey Beyer (2014  Outstanding Books for the College Bound List, Arts and Humanities)

Just before and during her first year at undergraduate art school, Ramsey Beyer kept a record of her experiences, including a Livejournal blog and a series of zines which included her own lists and illustrations.

Ten years later she published Little Fish, a compulsively readable memoir that pulls together these materials, including many of her original journal entries, and combines them with reflections from her older self.  As Beyer writes in this memoir, it is her account of how she left the farming town of Paw Paw, Michigan and “…made the leap, packed up my life, and moved to Baltimore – mixed in with the awkward college freshman experience.”

Teen Booktalk Buzzwords

by flickr user Sam Howzit
by flickr user Sam Howzit
Emotionally intense! Snarky! Action-packed! Fast-paced! Lush! Talking books with teens is fun, especially when using buzzwords that energize and colorize a book to make it downright enticing — at least enticing enough to spark a compelling curiosity for a teen to hold the book and read the inside flap. Progress, indeed! When enthusiasm for talking about books is backed up with a canon of teen buzzwords, your booktalk can become an effective powerhouse tool for getting teens to read.

So, what are buzzwords? The buzzwords I’m talking about are the appeal terms most often used to describe the key components of a teen book: the storyline, the pace, the tone, and the writing style. What are some of those booktalk buzzwords that will get teens interested in a book? Let’s take John Green’s wildly popular The Fault in Our Stars as an example. When I booktalk this book with teens I incorporate these buzzwords:

  • character-driven to describe a storyline dedicated to the development of characterization
  • leisurely paced to emphasize the gradual unveiling of the story through detail and language
  • snarky, dark humor, with emotional intensity, but thought provoking (John Green has an ability to bring out a variety of emotion and feeling in his books) to highlight the overall tone
  • sophisticated, witty, and compelling to describe the overall writing style of the author