Click here to see all of the current Quick Picks nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.
Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland Simon Pulse / Simon & Schuster Publication Date: August 11, 2020 ISBN: 978-1534448636
Three years ago, ICE deported Sia’s mother to Mexico, and now she’s presumed dead after attempting to cross the Sonoran Desert. Ever hopeful, Sia retreats to the desert, lighting candles to guide her mother’s return. Eventually Sia’s mom does appear, flying an alien spacecraft and claiming that extraterrestrials are hunting her. Together with her best friend Rose and would-be boyfriend Noah, Sia tries to find the truth in her mother’s fantastical claims.
This is a fast-paced genre mash-up with elements of mystery, fantasy, and Mexican folklore. Short chapters keep the story moving, along with discussions of compelling issues such as deportation, racism, sexual assault, and grief. The alien subplot, however, adds a dose of levity and intrigue. The main characters are a diverse lot with engaging backstories that highlight Sia’s Latinx heritage, Noah’s mysterious family life, and Rose’s tense relationship with her fanatically religious father. Over the course of the story, Sia learns a lot about the people in her life, and that everyone faces challenges or carries scars that aren’t always visible to others.
My favorite movie of 2018 was Bohemian Rhapsody. I was thrilled to see it, and Rami Malek, win awards, but, as interesting as Freddy Mercury’s story is, I find Queen guitarist Brian May’s story equally as interesting. Not only is he one of the world’s greatest guitarists, he built his own guitar and has a PhD in astrophysics. Although he is now in his 70s he still plays and recently released a new single, “New Horizons”, to celebrate the space probe of the same name as it flew past Ultima Thule, the farthest object in the solar system that a spacecraft has visited. Brian May might be described as a Renaissance Man and I wondered are there Renaissance Teens who might be inspired by these books I think reflect aspects of Brian May’s life?
Each year, YALSA’s Morris Awardhonors a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens and celebrating impressive new voices in young adult literature. The award winner will be announced at the ALA Midwinter Meeting Youth Media (YMA) Awards on Monday, Feb. 2, 2015. Join us for a live webcast of the YMA Awards press conference or follow I Love Libraries on Twitter or Facebook to be among the first to know the 2015 winners. The official hashtag for the 2015 Youth Media Awards is #ALAyma.
Today we bring you an interview with Len Vlahos, a 2015 Morris Award finalist for The Scar Boys.
I listened to the audio book edition of Scar Boys, narrated Lincoln Hoppe.Had you listened to him on another audiobook?What made you choose him to be the voice of Harbinger “Harry” Jones?
I was so excited when I learned the Random House had acquired the rights to do the audiobook of The Scar Boys, but I was also mystified. I knew nothing about how the process worked. The producer, Kelly Gildea, sent me clips of four possible narrators. The production team had their eye on one in particular, but he sounded too old to me. I knew as soon as I heard Lincoln’s voice that he was Harry. Plus, he’d read King Dork by Frank Portman and absolutely nailed that.(I should also note that I got to play guitar for the audiobook, which was a great experience.)
What music are you listening to right now?
Right this very second? The tapping of keys on my ancient Macbook. But in general, lately I’ve been playing Roxy Music’s Manifesto, Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska, and Jackson Browne’s Solo Acoustic Vol 1. (In fact, your question made me stop what I was doing, pull out the Bose Speakers, launch Spotify, and put on some Jackson Browne.)
Were there any songs you wanted to use as chapter titles that didn’t make it to the final novel?
Actually, the original manuscript did not use song titles as chapter heads; it used snippets of lyrics. So, for example, the chapter that currently starts with “Bad Brain (written by Dee Dee Ramone, Joey Ramone, Johnny Ramone, and Marky Ramone, and performed by the Ramones)” originally started with “Gives me the shots, gives me the pills, got me takin’ this junk, against my will…”—New York Dolls Only, it turns out that pesky US copyright law doesn’t allow you to use a snippet of a poem or lyric in a work of commercial fiction without first getting permission. I tried to clear permission, but no one wrote me back. This part of Fair Use law — the copyright law governing use of others’ intellectual property — is actually a bit of a gray area, but it made my publisher nervous, so I changed all the chapter heads to song titles (which can;t be protected with copyright). I spent two weeks searching for appropriate titles that we recorded before 1987. It was a challenge but fun.
If money and copyright were not issues, would you have included all the songs from the titles with the audiobook or as part of a cd soundtrack or downloaded playlist?
Egmont made a Spotify playlist of the chapter heads: Scar Boys
And yes, I would love it if they were in the audio book. However, those songs were chosen for the textual content. To get a better sense of what I really listen to, check out the playlist I made for my book tour.
I admit I judged this book.I had an expectation that was far exceeded.I loved the pervasive misery, the subplots of sadness like ;reading The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, Mrs. Mac dying so unexpectedly of cancer, Mr. K’s patient commits suicide, Richie’s accident, and even Harry’s dad loosing his job. Do you see yourself as an optimist, pessimist or realist?What do you see for your future?
Oh man, what a question. :-) Okay, if we were playing truth or dare and you asked this question, I would have to tell you that outwardly I’m all pessimist, and inside I’m all optimist. I’m a consummate dreamer, My future? I see hard work, happy kids, and fresh air.
Be warned, by the way, Scar Girl — the sequel scheduled to publish in late August — is a lot darker than The Scar Boys.
I spent way too much time thinking about the lost dog the family finds near a lighthouse while on vacation. I wanted a lot of things for Harry but I felt especially determined that he keep the dog. The impact of this scene changed when I reread it.Instead of focusing on the dog, I was fixated on Harry’s dad and their terrible encounter. His dad’s quote “pain and stress can hijack a man’s soul and twist it out of shape” made me see how strong Harry was.I didn’t think Harry’s soul was mangled from his accident. I felt an intense understanding of both characters at this exact scene. Did you write this scene in particular to help us understand forgiveness?
Great question! There were a lot of things going on in this scene. First, when my family drove across country when I was six years old (I have an older brother and sister, and all five of us were crammed in a Plymouth sedan for three weeks), we found an abandoned dog at a rest stop in Texas. My dad really did throw his back out trying to coax the dog into our car so we could bring him to a shelter.
Second, I was paying homage to Philip Roth’s American Pastoral. There’s a pivotal scene early in that book where the dad accidentally makes fun of his daughter’s stutter. It’s a powerful scene that has always stayed with me, and I was thinking of that when Harry’s father let’s his most horrible of insults slip.
Finally, I was thinking about ways of showing how Harry’s armor became hardened and how it shaped him as a person. That said, Harry doesn’t really come to understand the concept of forgiveness until he figures out how to forgive himself, which is kind of what happens with his story arc. (Whoops! Spoiler!)
Do you have a favorite music video that inspired your work? Or do you have a favorite video that was inspired by your work that we could share on The Hub?
I can’t say that any one music video inspired The Scar Boys, but I will share some video clips of students that were brave enough to play guitar and/or sing at my book events. It made the entire experience so wonderfully special.
Now that Scar Boys has two awesome covers, do you love them both equally or do you have a favorite?How involved are you in designing the covers?
Publishers have the decision making power over book covers, and I have been really fortunate that Egmont has included me at every step of the process. And really, there have been four covers. There were two proposed covers for the advanced reader’s copy, which was changed for the hardcover. I kind of love them all equally. Designers are amazing people. It’s a talent I just don’t have. Finally, we just revealed the cover for Scar Girl.
Pretty cool, huh?
Yes, Len, yes you are.
-Laura C. Perenic is currently reading Fat Boy Vs. the Cheerleaders by Geoff Herbach
This year on the Hub we are celebrating the Twelve Days of YA with a series of posts loosely based on the traditional Twelve Days of Christmas gifts. We have converted each gift into a related theme common to YA and paired it with a list of relevant titles. You may use the Twelve Days of YA tag to read all of the posts in the series.
Special thanks goes to Carli Spina, Faythe Arredondo, Sharon Rawlins, Geri Diorio, Becky O’Neil, Carla Land, Katie Yu, Laura Perenic, Jennifer Rummel, Libby Gorman, Carly Pansulla, Anna Dalin, and Allison Tran for their help creating the booklists and organizing this series.
On the twelfth day of YA, my true love gave to me twelve drummers drumming.
For our final day of YA we are returning to a musical theme. Day four included a wider variety of music themes, but today we are focused entirely on YA lit that includes musicians. We’ve gone a little bit country and a little bit rock-n-roll, so there should be something in here for everyone. We hope you enjoy the rock stars that we picked and encourage you to share your favorites in the comments!
When he was eight years old, a bully tied Harry to a tree as a thunderstorm approached. Lightning struck the tree just above Harry’s head, resulting in severe burn injuries on his face. Now Harry is looking back as he writes an essay for a college application, remembering the years of loneliness and ridicule that preceded his friendship with a guy named Johnny. Johnny shares Harry’s passion for music. The two of them eventually formed a band with two other musicians, appropriately named The Scar Boys.
The book is set in the 1980s, and is filled with musical allusions from that time. While The Scar Boys primarily play original music, they do have one cover song, These Boots Are Made for Walkin. That would be fun to hear! The song was written by Lee Hazelwood and originally performed by Nancy Sinatra (daughter of Frank) in 1966. Incredibly, there is a music video in which Nancy and her girls do some fancy go-go dancing. Try not to think of your grandfather watching this one.
-Diane Colson, currently reading The Museum of Intangible Things (advance reader’s copy) by Wendy Wunder