2017 Hub Reading Challenge April Check-In

Hello Hub readers; it’s time for another Hub Reading Challenge Check-In!

the hub 2017 reading challenge

According to my Goodreads shelf where I’m tracking my progress, I’ve got 15 books done for the Challenge so far. My now-standard approach to the Challenge is to load up on Graphic Novels in the first couple of months; getting my numbers up early helps keep me motivated. I love the format anyway, and I work in a high school, and have had a lot of success book-talking graphic novels to students who otherwise feel like they just don’t have time to read for fun when school’s in session. I’ve definitely enjoyed the ones I’ve managed to read so far (especially, to echo Anna’s check-in post, Paper Girls. That palette!! The eco-dystopian horror-show of Brian K. Vaughn’s We Stand On Guard felt terrifyingly plausible, and John Allison’s warm, wry Giant Days has been a perfect match for some of my seniors anxious to imagine themselves into college).

But the most delightfully *surprising* thing so far about my Challenge reading this year has been all the history! I adore historical fiction, so imagine my delight when I realized that Kiersten White’s And I Darken is only tagged so frequently as “fantasy” because of the “alternative” history component (it reimagines Vlad the Impaler as a girl). I love historical fantasy too, but I frequently crave more specificity of place and time than YA historical fantasy delivers, focused as it often is on action. I loved the imagined explanation for how one of history’s most notoriously ruthless figures could have become that way, and I learned a ton about the expansion of the Ottoman Empire in the 15th c. from the perspective of Sultan Mehmed II, aka Mehmed the Conqueror, who we meet as a young teen before he has conquered much of anything (well, maybe some hearts). This is the kind of historical fiction I wish I could find more of: stories that help to address the erasure of marginalized and non-Christian people from our (Western) understanding of historical events, and serve to enrich our awareness of just how diverse humanity has always been.

Right now I’m halfway through Julie Berry’s The Passion of Dolssa, and it is (so far) a deeply engrossing look at a (different) moment of religious fervor in 13th century western Europe. Like And I Darken, The Passion of Dolssa challenges the reader to set aside contemporary national borders and delve into what came before. This sense of the malleability of borders, and the complicated national, cultural, and religious identities they foster, is hitting hard for me right now.

Both of these books speak very clearly to the enormous influence and power of religion, to individuals and to power structures, throughout human history and that, too, feels apt for our current cultural moment.

One of the nonfiction titles I read, Sady Doyle’s compulsively readable Trainwreck, had way more history than I was anticipating, and I loved all of it. Each chapter contained a case study of a key feminist figure (from Mary Wollstonecraft to Billie Holiday), and all of it left me wanting to know even more about every one of the featured women.

For my next reads, I’m moving up to some 20th c. history: Meg Medina’s story of the Summer of Sam in NYC, Burn Baby Burn, and the audio version of Ruta Sepetys’ heartbreaking WWII refugee story, Salt to the Sea, which I’ve read but want to experience in audio.


Let us know how you are doing with the Challenge in the comments below, and don’t forget about the sortable spreadsheet! Here are the guidelines in case you don’t remember:

  • Format matters: a title that has been recognized for both the print version and the audiobook version can be both read and listened to and count as two books, but a book that has won multiple awards or appears on multiple lists in the same format only counts as one title.
  • Books must be read/listened to (both begun and finished) since the award winners and selected lists have been released and 11:59pm EST on June 22. If you’ve already read/listened to a title, you must re-read/listen to it for it to count.
  • Anyone can participate, and just about everyone who doesn’t work for ALA is eligible to win our prize for Challenge finishers. Non-ALA/YALSA members are eligible. Teens are eligible. Non-US residents/citizens are eligible. (More eligibility questions? Leave a comment or email us.)
  • Once you finish the challenge, we’ll contact you with details about creating and publishing your response.
  • If you have finished the challenge, let us know here!  The grand prize winner will be selected by 11:59pm EST on June 23. The winner will be notified via email.

Happy reading, all!
— Carly Pansulla, currently reading Waking Up White: And Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving

12 thoughts on “2017 Hub Reading Challenge April Check-In”

  1. I’ve only finished two graphic novels since the last check in but am in the middle of a couple of others now.
    10. Prez: Corndog-in-Chief – I enjoyed this much more than I thought I would and can’t wait to see more volumes!
    11. Paper Girls – As a former paper girl, I found this humorous and although I’m not a huge science fiction fan, I like the graphic novels that have it. I look forward to volume 3!

    After reviewing the comments from the last check-in and see that we can do more audio (for the prints on the list), I plan to do a bit more audio, the remaining graphics I can get my hands on, and continue to read the prints that keep my attention most. 11 out of 25 is a bit slow for me beginning May but I will try to catch up!

  2. I tackled 5 books for the month of April (bringing my total to 11) : I read 2 graphic novels Giant Days 1 and Giant Days 2 about the first months and year of college with 3 friends, 2 guys, drama in classes and in love. I read When the Moon Was Ours by Anna McLemore and was once again captivated by her writing, best friends Miel and Rose (but there is so much more to their relationship), magical realism and Pakistani and Latina cultural beliefs. I listened to 2 audiobooks, LOVED Anna and the Swallow Man (WWII, Holocaust) and HATED Kill the Boy Band- the narrator was great, just did not like the characters or story at all.

  3. I’ve finished 10 of my 25 so far, so I’m feeling the pressure of only two months to go. I’ll finish though, no matter what! So far my favorite was unexpectedly Samurai Rising. A must read! I will be recommending it to everyone for sure. I’m currently reading Wink Poppy Midnight and Giant Days Vol. 2.

  4. I completed 8 books since the last check-in which brings me up to 12 books. I loved The Diviners by Libba Bray. This is a super creepy and scary book (I do not usual read horror) but it is amazing. The historical setting (1920s) and references, the characters, and the action had me turning those pages!
    I love books that let me step into someone else’s shoes to get a new perspective; books that take me to a different time and/or place. March: Book 3 (actually the trilogy) should be mandatory reading in schools. It chronicles John Lewis’ life and his struggles fighting for civil rights. The Good Braider by Terry Farish is about a South Sudanese girl experiencing the horrors of war and making her way slowly to the US and adjusting to her new life in Maine. This fictional character’s experiences mirror those of many refugees fleeing South Sudan. Balcony on the Moon by Ibtisam Barakat is about Barakat’s life as a Palestinian living in the West Bank and her struggle to finish school and become a writer. Ada Lovelace, Poet of Science is a picture book about the mathematician who lived in the early 1800s and is considered the first computer programmer. All 4 of these books were excellent.
    Orbiting Jupiter by Gary Schmidt is an excellent but tragic story told by a boy whose family fosters a troubled teen. It is about second chances, hard situations, prejudices and taking the time to get to know a person before judging them. Wink Poppy Midnight by April Tucholke is well-written story with a twist at the end. Unfortunately I really did not like the characters at all and had a hard time getting through the book.
    I am not much of a GN reader and thank the Hub Challenge for widening my book horizons. I read Orange: The Complete Collection and really enjoyed it. This manga is about a girl in high school who gets messages from her future self telling her about upcoming events and how she should respond to them, especially regarding a new student at her school.

    I am currently reading “The Passion of Dolssa” which takes place in Provence, France in the mid 1200s. I am totally fascinated by it and I’m learning a bit of history as well. It’s the first book I’ve read in this setting and I must say I can’t put it down.

  5. Just finished listening to Gemina and oh was it awesome! If you liked the Illuminae audiobook, you will LOVE this! Lots of narrators, background noises, artful static, music, and journal entries kept me listening as I worked out.

  6. Checking in with #6-9 for April. That’s it?!? I’m always reading at least one if not multiple books from the list at a time. Feels like my number should be higher. Guess I’m getting distracted by off-list books (The Hate U Give anyone?).

    #6 – In the Shadow of Liberty – fantastic! So glad I opted for this one. I find myself sharing this one nearly constantly with teachers and students around my school.

    #7 – All the Bright Places – loved it, but what a heart-breaker. Definitely worth the read and a strong conversation starter, particularly in the wake of the Thirteen Reasons Why adaptation and subsequent buzz.

    #8 – Mighty Jack – cute, but probably my least favorite of the month simply because it’s a bit young for most of my students.

    #9 – If I Was Your Girl – I’m really impressed with this one. I can see why it won one of the Stonewall categories. Reading Beast right now, so I’m curious to see how they compare, but If I Was Your Girl will be hard to top.

  7. I got serious with the challenge this month and cranked out 10 books! That gives me a total of 14 so far, which is helping me feel a little more encouraged about finishing. Although, I still can’t believe I still have 11 left. So far I’ve really loved a few hard-hitting contemporaries that I didn’t expect to. “The Female of the Species” and “Orbiting Jupiter” both made me think about issues that are real and important today, which I appreciated. Surprisingly, I also found Gayle Forman’s “Just One Day” to be important (surprisingly, because I thought it was just a romance). I also really enjoyed the audiobook for “Gemina.”

    I’m looking forward to reading what I have left.

  8. it’s been a slow month for me, but I haven’t given up yet with a potential good month to come in May. I’m starting Vanishing Girls (popular paperbacks), and I hope to pick up Rani Patel (Morris) as well as a Stonewall title and an Amelia Bloomer title. Still working on the top ten Amazing Audiobooks!

  9. Read 21 books in April. Up to 65 now. Least favorites are the graphic novels. Have finished them all and only liked March: Book 3. Would have liked it more than a 2.5 had it been written in a non GN format and the words been easier to read (print size and font annoying). Other non GN books I wasn’t fond of were The Regional Office is Under Attack (too middle schooly), Romeo and/or Juliet (never liked Choose Your own Adventures when my kids were reading them), Gemina (just as awful as Illumnae, tho listening was not as boring as reading Book #1), Magnus Chase (boring) & a really non favorite – Asking For It. Sorry, I found a book about teenage girls who drank, did drugs, smoked, slept around, dressed like tramps ,then got upset when they were raped/molested. accosted/whatever just too much. Couldn’t wait to finish it and get it back to the library. On the other hand, books that were enjoyable, well written and good reads (4 or 5s) included The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko (reread), Salt to the Sea (listened to it – unforgettable), Burn Baby Burn, Daughters Unto Devils ( a solid 5), Exit Pursued by a Bear (this one didn’t get away with it – smart girl), all of Sarah Dessen’s books, All the Bright Places (another reread), Traffick (another 5 from Hopkins), The Geek’s Guide (really cute middle school book) & surprisingly, for me, I stayed up way too long to finish Scythe. Am reading at the moment The Passion of Dolssa (& not too thrilled by it), & Tell Me 3 Things. Have 4 waiting at the library for me. Like I said before, I watch very little TV, & stay up too late sometimes to finish a book. I have one upstairs and one downstairs & listened to the audio books in the car. I have 4 more rereads to do also. Read a lot during spring break.

  10. Got seven more read in April, putting me at 13, a bit behind my usual. My favorites of this month were As Brave as You and Daughter Unto Devils (couldn’t possibly be more different). I wasn’t really impressed with Anna and the Swallow Man; just wasn’t sure who the audience was. But, I really enjoyed the energy and color of Lowriders to the Center of the Earth. Definitely going to check out more of those.

  11. I had 50 at the first check in; I’ve got about 30 left. I slowed down some since then and read other things, and now I’ve got to pull off quite a bit of reading to conquer the challenge, oops. Luckily I have a lot of audiobooks left and I drive two hours a day…

    Least favorites from the middle: The Regional Office Is Under Attack! (not quite my thing though a different take on that trope) and Kill the Boy Band (not really funny enough for me, as I wasn’t fond of things like making the least talented member of the band both the gay one and the dead one). Most favorites: audio of Salt to the Sea (reading it in print now, but the audio was great) and Ghost (have both read and listened, loved both). Most surprised like: Die Young With Me (hadn’t even heard of the guy but his story was really well told). Now to try to finish!

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