The Rise and Fall of YA Lit Trends: Timing is Everything

In 2008, Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight hit the big time with the release of movie version. Millions flocked to the theaters, then to bookstores and libraries to finish Stephenie Meyers’ saga. Suddenly, everywhere we looked, there were vampires: scary, sexy, sparkly, fangs… you could take your pick. More books hit the shelves (or were discovered) like PC Cast’s House of Night series, Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy, and Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series. Not to mention the many TV shows cropping up everywhere, such as HBO’s True Blood and CW’s Vampire Diaries. It was vampire frenzy. Then the inevitable backlash hit—hard. Folks had clearly hit a saturation point with vampires (particularly Twilight.) It became cool to loudly proclaim ones’ hatred of Twilight—and all things vampire. Twilight spoofs were being produced, such as Nightlight: a Parody by the Harvard Lampoon and the Vampires Suck movie.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly BlackFast forward to 2013 when Holly Black (author of both children’s and young adult gold like The Spiderwick Chronicles and the overlooked but spectacular Curse Workers trilogy) offers The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. This book has everything a lover of gothic reads could want: creepy cool cover art, a terrifying opening scene, scary and dangerously hot romance, flawed narrator, realistic intriguing side characters, and a vividly described falling apart Las Vegas-like town under constant camera surveillance (showing another frightening side of reality TV like that depicted in the Hunger Games trilogy.) In fact, in this librarian’s humble opinion, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown has nary a flaw to be found—except that it’s about vampires. As Karyn Silverman of the Someday My Printz Will Come blog writes, “…I think the anti-vampire bias runs so deep in most librarians these days that Coldtown risks a cold shoulder as a result.” I fear Silverman might be correct in her assessment, as I haven’t heard much buzz from other readers about Coldtown—unless of course, I’m the one who brought it up (which I do, often and loudly). On a bright note, Coldtown‘s appearance on YALSA’s 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults list offers hope for this overlooked gem.  Continue reading The Rise and Fall of YA Lit Trends: Timing is Everything

One Thing Leads to Another: An Interview with Laini Taylor

Check out previous interviews in the One Thing Leads to Another series here.

It might be possible to resist Laini Taylor’s words and worlds, but I kind of doubt it.  I didn’t even try.  A friend sent me Blackbringer (book one of the Dreamdark series) and I fell headlong in love from the first sentence–“The wolf tasted the babe’s face with the tip of his tongue and pronounced her sweet, and the fox licked the back of her head to see if it was so,” for the record.  When Lips Touch was nominated for the National Book Award I was thrilled, but not surprised (it was a YALSA Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults as well.)  And then came Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Karou and Akiva and Brimstone and Zuzana and finally the not-very-well-kept-secret of Laini Taylor exploded and it was wonderful, because there is no resisting Laini Taylor’s words and worlds.  The detail, the scope, the sheer width and breath and depth of them just sucks you in like a beautiful, deadly, whirlpool.  Here there be marionettes and teeth and pomegranates and spiders and bat wings and blackened handprints and death and hope and courage and, of course, love, and how can anyone be expected to resist that?  My advice is not to try.  Just dive into the maelstrom and enjoy the ride.

Thank you so much, Laini, for taking the time to talk; for sticking with me through travel, technical difficulties, and kid time; and for the really excellent description of teen hair fail (been there.)

laini taylorAlways Something There to Remind Me

Please describe your teenage self.
I was ordinary and undistinguished, probably wearing ill-fitting jeans and exhibiting a lack of hair-styling mastery. If I wasn’t reading, I was daydreaming. I had a very good vocabulary and no sense of when not to use obscure words in conversation, so I got a lot of blank looks, and I’m sure I sounded pretentious. I memorized poetry, loved foreign films, and dreamed of escaping to Europe to pursue some grand, artistic life. I was a decent student and a decent athlete, and I had good parents and a small number of good friends. My high school life wasn’t terrible, but it would make a really boring book.

What did you want to be when you grew up?  Why?
I always wanted to be a writer. This has been a constant since very early childhood, with a few other—half-hearted—interests cropping up along the way, generally due to the influence of some book I was reading at the time. Like, thanks to Gerald Durrell, I wanted to travel the world collecting wild animals for zoos. None of these detours were ever serious. I’ve only ever really wanted to be a writer. In high school, specifically, I wanted to be a writer who vanished inexplicably and was believed dead. Yes, really. I would not be dead, of course. I would be living fabulously, secretly, in Tahiti. People would discuss the mystery of my disappearance in cafes the world over. This fantasy was mostly not serious. Mostly. I’ve always had ludicrous, over-the-top daydreams! Plus, I was under the influence of John Fowles novels at that time.

What were your high school years like?
When I was fourteen, my family moved from Brussels, Belgium to Orange County, California. It was 1987ish. This was not a happy move. I’d been living overseas for six years (my dad was in the Navy), first in a small, southern Italian beach town and then a major European capital. I’m sure I thought I was very worldly, but California was not impressed. I was lacking certain critical skills. For example, I didn’t know how to use a curling iron! In Orange County in 1987, you had to use a curling iron. For my first attempt, I curled in the wrong direction and scorched a kink into my hair. It was awesome. But I learned how to do it, sort of, to this effect: I would start out the school day with giant tidal-wave bangs (success!), but by second period the hair spray would start to give out (failure!) and my hair would slowly lose its structural integrity and collapse into a sad, half-resting state. Thinking back, I’m sure that not all of high school was about hair, but it kind of feels that way. I challenge you to look at my year book and notice anything else! “That hair! Oh my god, that hair!”

Continue reading One Thing Leads to Another: An Interview with Laini Taylor

What Would They Read?: My Little Pony

MLP FIM (800x450)
from deviantart user bluedragonhans

As you probably know, the television reboot of the My Little Pony franchise (Friendship Is Magic) has managed to find an older audience than the elementary school-aged girls one would have expected. As a regular viewer of the show and frequent YA reader, I thought it would be fun to take a look at what titles the ponies would read in their free time.

One thing I really like about the show is that it has a strong pro-female message. The show presents female characters who routinely solve problems by conducting research, reaching out to friends, and finding strength within themselves. In addition to encountering magical Big Bads, the ponies encounter real world problems such as bullying, low self-esteem, over-committing, and being too proud to ask for help. Because of this theme, I have selected books with female protagonists for all of the characters.

Today, I am focusing on three of the main six ponies: Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, and Rarity.

Twilight Sparkle
from deviantart user shapeshifter95

Twilight Sparkle

When Friendship Is Magic began, Twilight Sparkle was sent to Ponyville to learn the value of having friends. She was the best student studying under the Princess, but she missing a social component in her education. Twilight lives in a tree-house library, surrounded by books and often encourages research when faced with trouble. However, Twilight is also a unicorn and, therefore, magical. She must find balance between magic, research, and friendship to ultimate solve her problems.

Girl-of-Fire-and-Thorns-USI think that Twilight Sparkle would enjoy The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson (2012 Morris Award Finalist, 2012 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults) which is the story of Elisa, a princess and the Chosen One. Married off to a king whose people need her to save them, Elisa lives in a world of magic. She must fight to live long enough to save the people who need her, while avoiding those who hunt her for her power. Twilight has recently become a princess herself and has been forced to save all of Equestria on more than one occasion.

I also think that Twilight Sparkle would enjoy Graceling by Kristin Cashore (2009 Morris Award Finalist, 2009 Teens’ Top Ten, 2012 Popular Paperback for Young Adults) for similar reasons. Royalty, magic, and a strong female fighter would all appeal to Twilight’s love of reading, fantasy, and adventure.  Continue reading What Would They Read?: My Little Pony

Fanart Inspired by YA Books

Image by deviantART user AstridRodriguez
Image by deviantART user AstridRodriguez

One of my favorite things to do with YA books, series especially, is to wait until all the books are out and then devour them in a manner of days or weeks. I’ll admit I did this with Harry Potter when I started reading them in . . . 2007, after the final book was finished! When you read series like this it lets them take over your life a little bit. Soon you are thinking in phrases from the books and seeing images from them everywhere. Even if it’s not a series that is finished, if it’s a book I like, I catch myself envisioning the books intersecting with my real life. I’ve wanted to have magical pigeon friends ever since reading Michelle Tea’s Mermaid in Chelsea Creek and I can’t see wishbones or puppets the same after reading Laini Taylor’s Daughter Smoke and Bone (one of the Top Ten 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults selections).

If I was more artsy, I would allow these book obsessions an artist outlet, but I’m not. Luckily, there this great thing called the Internet and wonderful artists who endeavor to make it more beautiful with art and more inspired by YA books! Fanfiction is a great way to respond to books as well, but I like how fan art opens up many different avenues of interpretations of your favorite characters. It allows us to stretch our visual perceptions of what those characters may be and maybe even help to us envision a world more clearly.

There are tons of places to find great fan art and other visual responses to YA books – even tattoos inspired by YA books as the website Forever Young Adult highlights. Other great places to look are deviantART, a place for digital artists inspired by anything and especially friendly to lots of fandoms. Tumblr is another great place to browse, but be warned that both places, like the unbridled and unexpected wilds of the Interweb, is not always safe for work or school.

Check out some other examples of fanart that I find really lovely…  Continue reading Fanart Inspired by YA Books