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Tag: Sonya Sones

#QP2019 Nominees Round Up, September 4 Edition

The Opposite of Innocent by Sonya Sones
HarperCollins / HarperTEEN
Publication Date: September 4, 2018
ISBN: 9780062370316

Fourteen-year-old Lily is in love with a man twice her age.

Content warning: rape, abuse, and pedophilia.

It’s been over two years since Lily’s family friend, Luke, left for Africa. Lily cannot be more thrilled to have Luke back as she has been crushing on him for years. So when Luke begins seeing Lily as a woman and not the child he left, she feels as if her dreams have come true. Now, Lily’s once innocent relationship with Luke has become one full of fear and abuse from a predator.

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Narrators You Love to Hate in YA Lit

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Unreliable, whiney, un-likable, liars—we’ve all read characters like this!  I love to read a good book with a “bad” (and/or unreliable) narrator. This kind of flawed storyteller reaches to the reader and asks us to question, look deeper, and ponder truth and lies. It is a sign of an excellent author who can manipulate you to love the book and hate the character. Skilled writers make the reader believe the lies and then accept the truth.

Here are some favorite examples of protagonists I love to hate.

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

  • In this year’s Printz Award recipient I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson twins Noah and Jude lie to each other, lie to their parents, and lie to themselves (and by extension to us: the reader). With all the lies it’s no wonder there was so much to reveal in this tale. The sneakiness and bad treatment of each other made me distinctly dislike them. But Nelson also juxtaposed the twins’ nastiness with descriptions of how deeply they love each other.
  • Cadence from We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (2015 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults). Here is what I consider to be a likeable character and one whom I really felt for. But what if I knew the truth of what really happened that summer at the beginning of this book? Would I still have felt so sympathetic towards Cady?
  • Froi and Quintana from Melina Marchetta’s Lumatere Chronicles. Only Melina Marchetta (Printz Award winner) could take a predatory lowlife like Froi was when we first met him in Finnikin of the Rock (2011 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults) and turn him around so distinctly then lead him to star in his own story. Froi is redeemed in Finnikin of the Rock; grows in Froi of the Exiles, and become a hero in Quintana of Charyn. In the second installment of the Lumatere Chronicles Marchetta also introduces Quintana: one of the grossest characters I have ever imagined in a book and quickly made me love her. Quintana is prickly, deranged, damaged, paranoid, abused, and abusive. But she becomes a hero too—fiercely protective and thoroughly decent.
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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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Sex, God, and the Series: The Top 10 Book Challenges of 2011

The American Library Association yesterday released its list of the top 10 most frequently challenged books of 2011. At first blush, this year’s list appears to have few surprises, and in fact, 8 of the 10 books have been on the list before. Half of the titles have been on the list at least three times in the past 11 years.

  1. ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series) by Lauren Myracle
  2. The Color of Earth (series) by Kim Dong Hwa
  3. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
  4. My Mom’s Having A Baby! A Kid’s Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy by Dori Hillestad Butler
  5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  6. Alice (series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  7. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  8. What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones
  9. Gossip Girl (series) by Cecily Von Ziegesar
  10. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The biggest surprise comes from a title that isn’t in the list this year: And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson. This picture book, which tells the story of two male penguins in New York’s Central Park Zoo who become parents to a baby girl penguin, has held court at #1 or #2 on the banned books list since 2006. Yet this year the title has dropped off the top 10 entirely.

Graph of Trends in Challenged Books

There are also some more subtle shifts in this year’s list that shed light on some interesting trends in book challenges over the past decade:

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Across the Uni-Verse : Novels in Poetry

My friend Emily was hunting for novels in verse; that’s poetry-style novels that don’t rely on standard sentence structure to move the story along.  Of course I thought of books by Ellen Hopkins or Because I Am the Furniture by Thalia Chaltas (2010 Best Books for Young Adults), but then Emily added that these books should be ok for junior high school students.   I loved Because I Am The Furniture, but this dark story of confronting an abuser who perpetrates multiple kinds of misery on his family isn’t going to be found in most school classroom collections.  For this same reason, Ellen Hopkin’s novels like the Crank trilogy (2005 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults), that delve so deeply into angsty  recesses, aren’t the sort of thing a teacher is just going to hand out in class; though thought provoking, I really don’t want Emily fired over my choices.


I went to a teen book review meeting and I must have been whining louder than normal about my need for books in verse because the next morning I had a booklist in my email.  I compiled a list and had a books in verse reading marathon. Here are some of my favorites.

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