Is This Just Fantasy?: Valentine’s Day Special

Just Fantasy Valentines 2014Valentine’s Day is almost upon us and as heart-shaped cookies, chocolates, and balloons fill shop windows, I must acknowledge that the romance is in air–and on the bookshelves.    And it seems only appropriate to celebrate the holiday by exploring some of my favorite love stories: the romances featured in young adult fantasy fiction, of course.

While particular subgenres of speculative fiction such as supernatural romance and even dystopian or futuristic romance have enjoyed a particular upsurge in popularity over the past few years, I must make a case for the delightful variety, rich character-driven stories, and, yes, swoon-inducing moments available in high fantasy fiction.  Whether you like your romance to be a classic case of initial dislike and misunderstanding turned to love or platonic partnership grown into something more, there’s a something for you!  So here are a few of my favorite high fantasy novels and series featuring that unique magic: romance.

gracelingGraceling – Kristin Cashore (2009 YALSA Best Books for Young Adults, 2009 William C. Morris Award finalist)  Since discovering her Grace (or superhuman ability) for fighting and killing as a child, Katsa has lived as her royal uncle’s unenthusiastic thug.  But with the help of her tentative new ally Prince Po, Katsa sets out on an epic journey to face frightening secrets–about her abilities, her undecided future, and the dark violence spreading through the kingdoms.

 

Kristin Cashore is a fairly recent but incredibly popular addition to many lists of favorite fantasy writers.  Her debut Graceling features not only an action-packed plot and fantastically complex heroine–it also possesses a wonderful romance.  The developing relationship between Katsa and Po highlights their complementary personalities and explores the complexities of romance for a woman who has worked hard to earn her independence.  Continue reading Is This Just Fantasy?: Valentine’s Day Special

Teens Behaving Historically: The Civil Rights Movement in YA Literature

Martin Luther King Jr. March on Washington
image from U.S. Embassy The Hague’s flickr

Today, we celebrate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a leader and legend in the Civil Rights Movement of 1950s and 1960s.   And what better way to celebrate here at the Hub than to round up some of the incredible young adult fiction and nonfiction exploring this pivotal time in history?

While the major events and people of the Civil Rights Movement might be familiar, one aspect in particular is frequently under-appreciated: the incredibly significant role of children and teens.  From elementary school kids to high school & college students, young people contributed their time, energy, and passion while risking their futures, bodies, and even sometimes their lives for the fight for justice.  Nowhere does the strength of their commitment come through more clearly than in these young adult novels and nonfiction narratives.

Many of the significant civil rights events in the 1950s occurred at places central to the lives of children and teens: schools.  In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its monumental decision in the case of Brown v. Board of Education, unanimously declaring that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional.  The ruling set into motion a renewed push for school integration across the country.

warriors don't cryWarriors Don’t Cry: A Searing Memoir of the Battle to Integrate Little Rock’s Central High – Melba Pattillo Beals (1995 ALA Notable Book)  Drawing on memories, historical documentation, and her own teenage diaries, Melba Pattillo Beals shares her harrowing and life-altering experience as one of the Little Rock Nine–the nine black teenagers who integrated Central High in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957 amid violent protests and an eventual federal military intervention.  Her straightforward and honest prose and the inclusion of her diary entries make this monumental historical event personal and alive in a whole new way.  For another view on Central High’s integration, check out her fellow Little Rock Nine member Carlotta Walls LaNier’s memoir, A Mighty Long Way: My Journey to Justice at Little Rock Central High School. 

lions of little rockThe Lions of Little Rock – Kristin Levine (2013 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults)

A year after the contentious integration of Central High, tensions in Little Rock remain high. However, shy Marlee Nisbitt is mostly worried about starting middle school.  But when her new outspoken friend Liz suddenly leaves school after rumors spread that she’s a black girl passing as white, Marlee must put her newfound voice to the test to stand up for her friend–and a larger cause.

Continue reading Teens Behaving Historically: The Civil Rights Movement in YA Literature