2015 Amazing Audiobooks Top Ten Listen-a-Likes

Photo by Flickr User jeff_golden
Photo by Flickr User jeff_golden

This past year I had the immense pleasure to serve as chair for the 2015 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults committee. It was a really great year for audiobooks and my committee was fortunate to consider a total of 395 audiobooks for our selection list!  After hours and hours of listening, we had to whittle down a list of no more than 30 selections that were the year’s best.  If you have not yet had a chance to checkout our list you can see it here.  It was released last week, after the Midwinter Conference.

We also had the even more difficult task of selecting our Top Ten Audiobooks of the year. Below are our Top Ten titles for 2015, along with a suggested listen-a-like, in case you are ahead of the game and have already listened to these Top Ten selections.

2015 Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults Top Ten

  • ACID by Emma Pass, read by Fiona Hardingham with Nicholas Guy Smith and Suzan Crowley. Listening Library, 2014. 10 hours, 48 minutes; 9 discs. 978-0-8041-6832-8.

The brutal police state ACID rules all, so when Jenna is broken out of prison by a rebel group she has to fight to survive as ACID’s most-wanted fugitive.  Unique ACID reports and recordings read by Smith and Hardingham’s excellent pace combine with her authentic teen voice to highlight this exciting story.

Listen-a-Like:

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, read by Steve West and Fiona Hardingham: For those listeners who are looking for another title narrated by Fiona Hardingham that is packed with action and adventure and that has a strong female main character. (Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults 2012,  2012 Odyssey Honor  Audiobook)

acidaudioscorpioracesaudio

  • Curtsies and Conspiracies by Gail Carriger, read by Moira Quick.  Hachette Audio, 2013.  9 hours, 30 minutes, 8 discs, ISBN: 978-1-4789-2648-1.

In the second installment of the Finishing School series, Sophronia and her classmates use their training to search for a dangerous device that may have fallen into the wrong hands.  Quick’s lively narration highlights the wit and humor in Carriger’s story.

Listen-a-Like:

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud, read by Miranda Raison: The Finishing School series, narrated by Quirk, is filled with sly humor but also packs a punch with Sophronia’s adventures.  Likewise, The Screaming Staircase is not only is an action-packed steampunk mystery, but Raison brings variety to her narration by highlighting the nuances of the quirky cast of characters characters, including the darkly comedic Anthony Lockwood. (Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults 2014)

curtsies and conspiracies audio  screaming staircase audio Continue reading 2015 Amazing Audiobooks Top Ten Listen-a-Likes

YA Lit Symposium: YA Realness – What Makes Contemporary Realism Feel True to Readers?

YALSA_LitSymposium2014I began the first full day at the 2014 Young Adult Literature Symposium with a session that perfectly suited this year’s “Keeping It Real” theme.  Titled “YA Realness: What Makes ‘Contemporary Realism’ Feel True To Readers?” this Saturday morning session featured a self-moderated panel of established authors discussing a range of topics related to contemporary realistic fiction for young adults, including the genre’s authenticity, controversial topics, writing craft, and continued appeal to teens.

In many cases, a panel without a formal moderator could go horribly wrong, but the excellent crew of authors in this particular session instead created a casual and very thoughtful conversation about many aspects of contemporary realism. Matt de la Pena, Coe Booth, Sara Zarr, Sara Ryan, and Jo Knowles are all authors well-known for their varied, popular, and critically acclaimed works of contemporary realistic fiction written for and about young adults.

ya realness panel 2014
My sadly grainy shot of the excellent author panel in action!

lucy_variationsSara Zarr started the session off  by getting right to the most basic but unavoidable question: “How do you define ‘contemporary realism?”  She broke the ice by offering her own, excellent definition of the genre as a story that takes place more or less in the present in which nothing happens that could not feasibly happen in our world and nothing occurs that might violate the space-time continuum.  The other panelists chimed in, mentioning their emphases on honesty, emotional truth, and grittiness.  Matt de la Pena shared his usual response to questions concerning his preference for realistic fiction over fantasy: “I am so infatuated with the real world that I don’t go there [to supernatural creatures, etc.] creatively….you all have great stories in your lives, you just think they’re normal.” Continue reading YA Lit Symposium: YA Realness – What Makes Contemporary Realism Feel True to Readers?

Realistically Speaking! Some New Realistic YA Fiction for Your Fall Reading

The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn AcademyWell, I never thought I’d say this (and I will only admit this to you, Hubbers), but I’m a little burned out on comics right now.  What?!  I know, right?!  Don’t get me wrong, I still love comics, but as the old saying goes too much of a good thing is too much (that is the saying, right?).  So, anyways, I have just been reading so many fiction and nonfiction comics lately that one day a few weeks ago, I put down my copy of Batman: Zero Year/Secret City (and, don’t worry, Batman, you didn’t turn me off of comics – you’re perfect just the way you are) and picked up some of the galleys I had brought home from ALA in June.  I just wanted something a little different than my usual to curl up with on these cold October nights (the best month of the year, if you ask me!).

Luckily for me, and you, dear readers, there is some unbelievably great realistic teen fiction that has been or will be released that book lovers will absolutely swoon over. From feminism to a 1990s semi-love story to a gerbil named Baconnaise and more interrobangs than you can handle (more on that in a sec!), if you like stories of teens being teens, make sure to check out all of these fun and fantastic reads for the fall. Now normally, you know we always start with Batman, but this time, let’s start with Baconnaise!

The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer:  You guys.  So, for most of the time I’ve been a Teen Librarian, I’ve had one and only one favorite teen book.  Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King has always had my heart – no runners up; no top five list.  But, now, there is a serious contender for #1 teen book in my heart, and it’s this new one by first time author, Kate Hattemer.  TVPoSA (I wanted to abbreviate the title, so this is it!) tells the story of Ethan and his group of friends who attend Selwyn Academy, a performing arts school in Minnesota.  Much to the chagrin of Ethan and his friends – Luke, Jackson & Elizabeth – their school is now the filming location of the very popular reality show, For Art’s Sake, a show that has Selwyn Academy students competing against each other using their artistic craft to receive money and scholarships.  It’s sleazy and sensationalistic and Ethan’s group hates it so much that the four of them start writing long form protest poems after reading about how Ezra Pound employed the same tactic. But, the problem is– when the producers of For Art’s Sake get ahold of the Contracantos (their super cool name for their poems which they print out and distribute all around the school), they love them and promptly ask Luke to be on the show.  And, the (second) problem is that Luke does it, and he loves it.  Now Ethan is feeling betrayed and is determined to make Luke and the school sorry they ever let this sham of a show film at their school.  The threesome just know that the administration is up to something nefarious and suspicious regarding Selwyn’s involvement with For Art’s Sake, and they won’t stop until they expose everyone and all their lies, even if they discover it might just involve their very favorite teacher in the world.  Plus! There’s a gerbil named Baconnaise that definitely steals the spotlight and just might be their secret weapon in the end.  This book is hilarious and you should read it now, and it introduced me to my new favorite punctuation- move over, semi-colon, there’s a new favorite in town: the interrobang.  Seriously.  Read it now.  I’ll wait. Continue reading Realistically Speaking! Some New Realistic YA Fiction for Your Fall Reading

Celebrate the Day of the Dead with These YA Novels

day of the dead by violetdragonfly
Image by violetdragonfly

In just a few days, The Day of the Dead (El Día de los Muertos) will be celebrated in Mexico, other Latin American countries and a large number of U.S. cities.  Celebration dates vary from October 31st through November 2nd. On the Day of the Dead, people remember and pray for family members and friends who have passed.  To celebrate the dearly departed, it is common to visit their graves and to create altars which often include marigolds, photos of the deceased and items that were important to them in life.

Communities, libraries and schools all over are currently making final preparations for their own Day of the Dead celebrations.  I’ve attended the Santa Ana, California celebration several times, and am always amazed by the range of altars that families and local organizations create in honor of loved ones and various causes.  The festivities also include Mexican folk music, face painting, sweet bread (pan de muerto) and Mexican hot chocolate.  If you live near a Day of the Dead celebration yourself, I strongly encourage you to check it out.

You can also see The Book of Life, a beautifully crafted new animated film in current release which includes a Day of the Dead celebration.  And of course you can always celebrate by reading one or more of the following YA novels (and one adult graphic novel) in which the Day of the Dead plays a role!

tequila worm viola canalesIn The Tequila Worm (2006 Pura Belpré Award winner), Viola Canales writes a semi-autobiographical story about Sofia, a Mexican-American teen who has grown up in a Latino neighborhood in South Texas.  Her excellent work in school earns her a scholarship to attend a prestigious and mainly white boarding school over 300 miles away from her family.  Much of the novel centers on Sofia’s efforts to convince her parents to let her attend this school.  Throughout the novel, family traditions and celebrations are described, including those connected with the Day of the Dead.  There’s lots of humor in this novel, yet it also covers serious ground including discrimination, the difficulty of separation from family and death. Continue reading Celebrate the Day of the Dead with These YA Novels

A Small Smorgasbord of Scandinavian YA Lit

Photo courtesy of jari
Photo courtesy of jari

Over the past several years, Scandinavian and Scandinavian-influenced culture seems to be popping up everywhere.  We’ve seen this during the past six to eight years in the popularity of authors such as the Swedish Stieg Larsson, who wrote The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, and the Norwegian Jo Nesbø, who writes the Harry Hole series.  Over the past few years you or someone you know has definitely played “Angry Birds,” a game app created by Finnish company Rovio Entertainment.  (I admit that I myself facilitated an “Angry Birds” pom-pom craft at my library.)  Recently, the movie Frozen, based in part on 19th century Danish author Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, The Snow Queen, took over the box office. To bring it back to young adult literature, the 2014 Printz Award and a Printz Honor went to two novels with Scandinavian settings, respectively Midwinterblood by the British writer Marcus Sedgwick and The Kingdom of Little Wounds by American Susann Cokal.

So this all inspired me to find out what’s been written in the past few years by  Scandinavian YA authors.  Read on for a sampling of recent popular and award-winning titles – feel free to serve yourself!

erlings boy on the edgeFrom Iceland:

Boy on the Edge by Fridrik Erlings (sometimes written as “Erlingsson’) is the story of Henry, a teen who stutters, has a clubfoot and is almost illiterate.  A growing rage has also developed inside him and one day he lashes out physically at his mother.  As a result, he’s sent to live at the “Home of Lesser Brethren,” a farm on a lava field on the Icelandic coast.  Henry finds that he really enjoys working with the animals there, and this along with the compassion of the wife of the reverend who runs the farm somewhat lessens the difficulty of his new environment.  Henry’s desperate desire to make friends affects his actions, sometimes for the worse, but sometimes for the better, such as when he becomes interested in reading and writing.  This novel is based on the author’s actual relationship with the real Henry.  Continue reading A Small Smorgasbord of Scandinavian YA Lit

Bookish Brew: Summer Smoothie Edition

Image by Flickr user Pamela Bates
Image by Flickr user Pamela Bates

I don’t know what the weather’s like where you are, but here in southern California we’ve had some pretty hot days recently.  So I thought that for this entry in my occasional Bookish Brew series, a cool summer smoothie would be more in order than a hot drink.  Make that two smoothies– one for each of the narrators of Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando’s wonderful and authentic Roomies (2015 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers Nominations List). 

When Roomies begins, teens Lauren and Elizabeth are a couple months away from starting their freshman year at the University of California, Berkeley.  They have just received each other’s names and email addresses from the campus housing office because they have been matched as dorm roommates.  Lauren lives in San Francisco, California, which is not far from the city of Berkeley.  In her loving two-parent family, she is the eldest of her siblings by several years.  Her responsible nature may stem partly from her heavy child-rearing responsibilities.  She is somewhat shy, concerned with honesty and aims to work in scientific research.  Elizabeth, also known as E.B., lives in suburban New Jersey near the Shore with her single divorced mom with whom she does not have a close relationship.  Elizabeth can be overly sensitive at times and is more impulsive than Lauren, as well as more outgoing.  She plans to study landscape architecture. 

roomies zarr altebrandoInitiated by Elizabeth of course, the two begin an email correspondence over the summer.  They share the details of their lives and soon after their feelings and frustrations about friends, family and boyfriends.  This is not an epistolary novel, however; these emails are one component of a traditional narrative.  The two girls alternate narrating chapters. 

Initially Lauren and Elizabeth experience a mainly positive interaction, getting a feel for each other’s personalities, leaning on each other throughout a couple situations in their personal lives and sharing the joys of their respective first loves.  A misunderstanding arises, however, connected to Elizabeth‘s estranged father, who lives and owns an art gallery in San Francisco.  Both girls are challenged to look at the situation through the other’s eyes and decide whether reconciliation is possible.  In an interview with Harvard Magazine (September-October 2014) Tara Altebrando describes how she and Sara Zarr wrote the book both separately and together over a period of three years and mentions that they are considering either a sequel or another collaborative project.

I highly recommend listening to the audiobook version of Roomies if you can, which is voiced by Becca Battoe and Emily Eiden.  These two readers do an amazing job of vocally capturing the distinct rhythms and personalities of Lauren and Elizabeth, not to mention the differences in regional accents. 

But now the time has come to blend!  When choosing the ingredients for a “bookish brew” I consider the setting and the essential traits or qualities of the main character of a novel.  As there are two quite distinct main characters in Roomies, I’ve created two smoothies.  Continue reading Bookish Brew: Summer Smoothie Edition

Aftermath: How YA Novels Deal With Shootings

photo by flickr user Andrew_Writer
photo by flickr user Andrew_Writer

I began preparing this post last spring in observance of the Columbine High School tragedy, which occurred on April 20, 1999. Then the Boston Marathon bombing occurred, so I held off on posting because I felt that there were too many fresh wounds for people to read such a post. And I had my own issues, because I lived in Boston. But now I think it’s important to write this post, because sadly, these events occur far too regularly for me to find the perfect time to post, where it’s not too recent but not too far from everyone’s minds. And it has already been 15 years since Columbine, and yet there is no shortage of similar events to fill that space.

When it comes to Columbine, today’s teens mostly have no memory of this event, which may even have occurred before they were born. And unlike tragedies of the past few years, where we have had texting, tweeting, and news streaming online to keep us abreast of events as they unfold, many of us only knew about Columbine after it happened. This brings up a lot of thoughts about safety, over-exposure, and security – if we all have Internet access in most places, is it our duty to notify others about emergencies as they take place? Does that impede the measures of emergency personnel trying to get the situation under control, or does it help more people get to safety? Is checking Twitter for news all the time healthy, does it desensitize us, or does it depress us? I recall my experience of living in Boston on the day of the manhunt; after a good four hours of watching the same five news reports over and over again, I had to turn it off, watch some fun TV, and make snacks with a friend, because it was simply too exhausting. Then again, having so much access to news forces us to engage with current events and consider how they affect our lives.

So here is a simple list of YA novels that have attempted to unravel and understand how teens deal with violent occurrences – leading up to them, during them, and after them. No commentary, just publisher copy and a Goodreads link. I hope these can be helpful, meaningful, or healing for you. Continue reading Aftermath: How YA Novels Deal With Shootings