Neko Atsume is a “cat collecting” IOS and Android game that has, quite literally, taken over the world. I defy you to find a child, a teen, a millennial, or an adult that has NOT played or at the very least heard of this phenomenon. You can find these cuddly kitties everywhere! They have their own cafes, their own toys, their own specials places in our hearts. I know I can’t go a day without taking care of mine. And I’m still working on collecting a few of those pesky rare ones!
Whenever I get a request for an “extraordinary teen book” – and, I get that request all the time – I always recommend books by A.S. King. From real to surreal, love to hate, red helicopters to umbrellas, A.S. King writes books that make the teen experience feel real.
All of the characters in her books – Lucky, Astrid, Glory, and my personal fave, Vera, (just to name a few) are real people to me. Sometimes I wonder what they might be doing now. Eating a sandwich? Feeling happy? Riding in the red, invisible helicopter? Her books helped me through reading slumps, a traumatic death, and plain ole’ boredom.
If you haven’t read an A.S. King book, yet – I have to let you know that you are in for a treat. But! With so many books and so many topics and subjects, where’s a reader to start? Lucky for you, I created a super-simple (ha-ha!) flowchart to lead you directly to the book that will blow. your. mind. Last year, I was lucky enough to have A.S. King visit my library for Teen Read Week. When I was agonizing over what I was going to say in my introduction, I came upon the following quote, and it’s stuck with me so long because it’s so totally true. From the New York Times Book Review: “Maybe there are writers more adept than King at capturing the outrageous and outraged voice of teenagers, but it’s difficult to think of one.” Yes – that’s exactly correct.
Aliens. Vampires. Ghosts. Dystopians. These are some huge themes that pop culture has gone through in the past decade. From YA novels, to movies, to television shows there is always a theme that prevails for a period of time. Our current theme? Retellings.
The current line up of new movies are either remakes and reboots of originals or books and comics turned into movies, with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Revenant, and Deadpool leading the way. Current popular TV shows are either retellings or revivals of past shows, with the masses being particularly excited about Fuller House and X-Files.
Retellings abound in YA literature as well, not only in rewriting classics, such as Marta Acosta’s retelling of Jane Eyre entitled Dark Companion, but many retellings of fairy tales. What is it about retellings that catch our attention? Is it the themes that we know and love? Is it the comfort of the familiar, like we are coming home? I am sure the answer is different for everyone, but there is no doubt that retellings are taking the pop culture world by storm.
As with many themes, certain books quickly take the spotlight, while some others quietly gain attention. The same goes with retellings. Below are some books that all your friends may have been telling you about, books you haven’t heard of, and new books to keep an eye out for.
Let’s face it, there are a lot of love triangles in YA literature and many readers either love them or hate them. I first saw a spike in the love triangle concept when Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight came out in the mid 2000s. The Edward, Bella, Jacob combination was one that I—and many fans— found compelling. I was so excited to find out which guy Bella would pick. The choice that she made definitely added to the suspense of the plot. Unfortunately, she didn’t pick the guy that I liked, so I was devastated. Why? Well, what is it about the one girl, two guy factor that is destined to ruin our world? Most obviously we will have to make a choice and one guy will end up being the loser. Portraying love triangles in YA novels is a good way to show how hard it is for teens to stay neutral and how they might have to make a list of pros and cons in order to make their decision.
Let’s look at the choices involved in most love triangles. Often, there’s the hot bad boy who makes all the girls drool. You know this guy, he’s almost always a jerk or has obsessive tendencies. The bad boy might be a chosen because he seems exciting and adventurous. His good looks are fine, but beyond his looks there is a possessively driven heart. Then, there’s the adorable best friend type, a dependable guy who usually melts our hearts with his sweetness. Each appeal to characters—and readers—for different reasons.
The good news is that love triangles have been evolving and changing over the years since Twilight and a few have redeemed my faith in them. Here’s what I found out: Some love triangles have two good guys, but one is just a little sweeter and bakes really good bread. Continue reading Love Triangles in YA: Is There Hope After All?
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 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
In today’s first of a 4-part series, we’re going to highlight a bunch of titles from the current list of nominees for the Teens’ Top Ten awards. Voting (for teens!) starts August 15th, here. The Teens’ Top Ten list is always one of my favorites, because I love to see what, y’know, actual teenaged bookworms loved reading last year.
An annotated list (for reader’s advisory) of all the nominees is here. The annotations below focus on supplemental and promotional materials for each title, as well as where to find the authors online; if the young adults you serve are anything like the ones in my library, they love to follow their favorite authors in every medium available, and they’re definitely using authors as a resource to find more reading. Hopefully these spotlights will help you and your readers to discover more about each of the nominees!
I’m also going to break down some stats about the nominees in each post. To start, here are some stats about the authors: out of 24 nominated titles, 4 of the nominated authors are male, and the other 20 are female. I’m pretty uncomfortable assigning or guessing someone else’s racial identity based exclusively on pictures available online, so about the racial diversity of the nominated authors I will just say that it’s mostly a very white-looking crowd. 7 of the nominated authors have had a book nominated for a Teens’ Top Ten list before, and 5 of those 7 have made the list with a previous book or books.
Below, our first batch of nominees (they’re just broken into smaller groups for posting purposes, alphabetically by author’s last name, no significance to order!):
Let’s Get Lost by Adi Alsaid. Numerous reviews are comparing Alsaid’s writing style to none other than John Green, so I think it’s fair to say we can expect more from him in the future! Let’s Get Lost was his debut novel; his second, Never Always Sometimes, comes out in August. He blogs here, there’s a nice landing page for Let’s Get Losthere, and a video shoot + author interview here. Alsaid is also on Twitter.
Don’t Look Back by Jennifer L. Armentrout. Armentrout is already a bestselling author with a *deep* backlist; great news for readers looking for their next pick after finishing Don’t Look Back (although, fair warning, not everything she’s published is YA), and this suspenseful mystery was already recognized on the 2015 Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers list. Her official author’s page is here, and she’s also on wattpad here. She’s active on Twitter, and Facebook, as well.
Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne. First in a projected series (with a prequel, Poison Dance, available now as well), Midnight Thief is Blackburne’s first traditionally published novel, and readers anxious to follow the narrative thread will be relieved to know the sequel, Daughter of Dusk, comes out August 4th. Blackburne’s author page is here, and she also blogs here, and is on Twitter. Continue reading Spotlight on: Teens’ Top Ten Nominees – Part 1