Get Inspired: YA Novels with Characters Who Read or Write Poetry

sweet revenge of celia door finneyfrockIn celebration of National Poetry Month, and because I am a poetry lover myself, I wanted to share some YA fiction titles in which a major character reads and/or writes poetry.  If you are reading this blog entry, then you probably enjoy poetry too.  And if you are like me – who has not kept the promise she made to herself some time ago to read a poem every day – you could do with some inspiration. 

So take a look at the list below, pick out a couple novels to read and let the presence of poetry move you to read or write some verse yourself!


The Sweet Revenge of Celia Door by Karen Finneyfrock

Author Karen Finneyfrock is herself a poet.  Celia, the protagonist of this novel, dreams of becoming one.  She also dreams of revenge on classmate Sandy for what she did to Celia in eighth grade, an act which is not revealed until late in the novel.  As Celia writes: “That’s the day the trouble started. / The trouble that nearly ruined my life. / The trouble that turned me Dark. / The trouble that begs me for revenge.”  Rejected by her classmates, Celia finds comfort in writing poetry.  She even turns her mom’s notes into haiku.  An unexpected friendship with Drake, a boy who has just transferred to Celia’s high school, eventually opens Celia up to a new way of seeing the world and a more hopeful approach to life.

Continue reading Get Inspired: YA Novels with Characters Who Read or Write Poetry

An Interview With Alex Award Winning Author Lisa O’Donnell

The Death of Bees
Lisa O’Donnell is a 2014 recipient of YALSA’s Alex Award.  The Alex Award goes to authors who write books for adults that have a teen appeal.  I just read her book and loved it!  The story is told in three points of view, two of them are sisters who are in the process of burying their good for nothing parents in their backyard.  The third voice is the sexual predator neighbor who looks out for them.  O’Donnell agreed to be interviewed about her recent honor.

How did you choose the title, The Death of Bees?

In the first chapters when the girls are burying the bodies of their parents they go to a garden centre to buy lavender to disguise the graves and hide the smell. At the garden centre they meet a woman who scares Nelly about the possible extinction of honeybees. When the girls get home Nelly, who has Autism, obsesses over what the woman has said about the Bees. This makes Marnie angry because the truth is Nelly isn’t afraid of the Bees at all, she is afraid because they’re burying their parents in the backyard, the bees are simply where she projects her fear. Marnie knows this, but won’t acknowledge it either and also hides behind the subject of bees. Continue reading An Interview With Alex Award Winning Author Lisa O’Donnell

An Interview with Alex Award Winning Author Gavin Extence

Photo Apr 30, 11 38 14 AMGavin Extence is the author of The Universe Versus Alex Woods, a 2014 Alex Award winning novel that’s surprising, funny, tragic and poignant all at once as it quirkily portrays the life of teenaged British science nerd Alex Woods. Woods was struck in the head by a meteorite in a freak accident when he was 10 and survived, although he was forever changed by the experience. He develops severe epilepsy and because of this, his life unfolds in unexpected and surprising ways.

I always look forward to seeing which titles are selected each year for the Alex Awards Photo Mar 16, 12 13 40 PM(adult books selected for their demonstrated or probable appeal to the personal reading tastes of young adults). I loved this book and it more than deserves the Alex Award. When I heard that Gavin was willing to be interviewed for The Hub, I jumped at the chance and wasn’t disappointed by his thoughtful answers to my many questions.

Q. Your last name is unusual. What’s its origin?

It originates from Devon in the southwest of England, not that far from where Alex lives. My Grandad told me it came from a group of shipwrecked Spanish pirates. I’m not sure if that story is completely true, but it’s the best answer I have, so I’m sticking to it!

Photo Mar 16, 12 50 29 PMQ. Congratulations on the Alex Award! Were you surprised at how much praise the book has received? I remember it was one of NPR’s 5 recommended reads for YA readers last summer.

Thank you. Yes, I was very surprised. I had very modest expectations for my book, and never even thought about it being published outside the UK. But obviously I’m thrilled that so many readers have enjoyed it.

Q. Did you write the book you wanted to write or did you have to change anything you were going to include? Since the book covers Alex’s life from ages 10-17, did you ever consider writing this as a YA book or was it always going to be an adult book?

There wasn’t much I changed between the first draft and the last – just minor details, really. But I did a lot of polishing to make the book as good as I could. I always thought I was writing a story for adults, although I also wanted to paint a very clear and immediate picture of adolescence, and I knew I wanted the writing to be fairly straightforward and accessible. But I never really considered the YA audience until my publisher said they wanted to market the book as ‘crossover’. However, it’s wonderful to reach a wide readership. So far the youngest person to have read the book, that I’m aware of, is 10 (too young!) and the oldest is 101. Continue reading An Interview with Alex Award Winning Author Gavin Extence