Amazing Audiobooks (#AA2022) Featured Review of The Cat I Never Named by Amra Sabic-El-Rayess

The Cat I Never Named Audiobook By Amra Sabic-El-Rayess, Laura L. Sullivan cover art

The Cat I Never Named: A True Story of Love, War, and Survival by Amra Sabic-El-Rayess and Laura L. Sullivan; Narrated by Leila Buck
Recorded Books, Inc.
Publication date: December 29, 2020
ISBN: 9781705017708

Growing up in Bihac, Bosnia during the Bosnian War of the 1990s, Muslim teen Amra lived through unfathomable horrors, as told here in her memoir.  As war looms, then goes from bad to worse, Amra describes her circumstances and actions and those of her family and neighbors.  Facing potential death daily and barely able to feed themselves, a cat joins them. They need to turn it away, but when the cat seemingly saves her brother they choose to keep it around, much to their benefit over time.

Continue reading Amazing Audiobooks (#AA2022) Featured Review of The Cat I Never Named by Amra Sabic-El-Rayess

Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2022) Featured Review of The Forest of Stolen Girls by June Hur

Cover Art

The Forest of Stolen Girls by June Hur
Macmillan / Feiwel and Friends
Publication Date: April 20, 2021
ISBN: 978-1250229588 

Five years ago, Hwani and her sister Maewol got lost in the forest and were later found unconscious, just a few paces away from the apparent suicide of a young woman. Then Hwani’s father, Detective Min, disappears in the same area, and Hwani returns to the hometown they left after the incident, following cryptic clues in her father’s journal that seem to connect the Forest Incident–as it came to be called–with the recent disappearance of thirteen girls.  As she reconnects with her estranged sister and doggedly follows in the footsteps of her father’s investigation, lost memories begin to bubble to the surface — memories that someone else would like to see buried forever. 

Continue reading Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2022) Featured Review of The Forest of Stolen Girls by June Hur

Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2020) Nominees Round Up, November 1 Edition

Click here to see all of the current Best Fiction for Young Adults nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.

Here There Are Monsters by Amelinda Bérubé
Sourcebooks Fire / Sourcebooks
Publication Date: August 6, 2019
ISBN: 978-1492671015

Skye’s sister, Deirdre, is just a little socially awkward with her imaginary kingdoms and insistence that Skye continue to play along as the Queen of Swords.  Deirdre’s mysterious disappearance coupled with the arrival of monsters that promise to reunite the sisters unleashes events that Skye spill over onto Skye’s new friends in ways that can no longer remain hidden

Continue reading Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2020) Nominees Round Up, November 1 Edition

Get Ready for ALA Annual with YA set in New Orleans

When I get ready for a trip, I often look to literature to get me in the mood to journey to a new locale. For those of you heading to ALA in New Orleans in June, there are several young adult novels that you might want to read before your travels to get a little taste of New Orleans.

Continue reading Get Ready for ALA Annual with YA set in New Orleans

Booklist: The Refugee Experience for Teens

The refugee experience is on a lot of teens minds these days. Many teens want to better understand the hardships that refugees face, and what leads to someone needing to flee their home. Here is a list of books for teens that explore a variety of conflicts, and the harrowing journeys that many have faced in hopes of a safer and more stable life.

Continue reading Booklist: The Refugee Experience for Teens

Notes from a Teens’ Top Ten Book Group Participant: 6 Books Every Teen Girl Should Read

TeensTopTen_logo_webTeens across the nation voted for the 2014 Teens’ Top Ten list, and the winners have been announced– but did you know how the books are nominated for this list in the first place?

Books are nominated by members of Teens’ Top Ten book groups in school and public libraries around the country. To give you a glimpse of what it’s like to be part of the process, we’re featuring posts from these teens here on The Hub. Today we have book recommendations from Kitra Katz of the Teens Know Best book group in St. Paul, Minnesota. To read more reviews by Kitra and the members of this group, visit the TKB Blog.

As a girl who has soaked in hundreds of books throughout her teenage years, I have found myself sighing at scores of disappointments. My peculiar taste for characters who make me proud to be a young woman and teach me lessons I need to wrap my head around before my last year of legal childhood comes to a halt often makes finding literary role models difficult. Very, very difficult.

I don’t want to jump into the world of a girl who spends more time moping over a boy than building her own story (though sometimes a fun, girly read can be good). Instead, I want a girl who is her own hero, or even the hero of others. A girl who can whip out a sword or witty word faster than she can say, “Maybelline or Covergirl?” A girl who is strong in times of trouble.

Sadly, this girl doesn’t seem to be terribly common in the literary world. So to help all those young women like me out there, I’ve created a checklist of six books every teenage girl needs to read.

1. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (a 2012 Morris Award finalist)

In this tear-jerking piece of fiction, we meet Lina, a fifteen-year-old who faces the most difficult years of her life when her whole family is arrested and sent to various Soviet-run prison camps.

2. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Told as a “memoir-in-comic-strips,” Persepolis is the story of Marjane growing up in the capital of Iran during the Islamic Revolution. Fascinating and eye-opening. Continue reading Notes from a Teens’ Top Ten Book Group Participant: 6 Books Every Teen Girl Should Read

Russia-Infused YA Lit

Photo by Jessica Lind
Photo by Jessica Lind

One year ago today, my first post for The Hub, From Russia with YA, went live. Today, I am celebrating my blogiversary with another Russian-related topic: the abundance of YA lit being published with a Russian connection.

Over the past couple of years, it seems that Russia (or the USSR) has been popping up everywhere! At first, I thought I was only noticing this theme because I moved here, much like how the world felt like it was suddenly filled with weddings as soon as I got engaged. I had a few conversations with friends who did not have the same connection and they had noticed it, too.

What is it about Russia that makes for such an interesting background in YA lit? Is it simply because it is a country that has such a long history filled with royalty, religion, and rebellion? Did the Cold War draw a clear line between the cultures of the US and the USSR, making life in Russia seem even more distant and distinct, a novelty?

The books that I have included in this post focus on various aspects of Russian history and culture, across a range of historical time periods. None of these books are contemporary stories (the most recent occur during the Soviet Union) and most include elements of fantasy and the supernatural. It seems that something about Russia cries out for the inclusion of magic – even a story of spies and ballet is open to a supernatural addition!

  • shadow_and_bone_coverThe Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo (Shadow and Bone2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2013 Readers’ Choice)
    • The Grisha trilogy is a Russian-influenced high-fantasy series based on magical powers and battles between light and dark. Bardugo used elements of Russian culture and language to create a completely new world. Some readers have expressed frustration with her departure from the traditional rules and customs of Russia, for example not following the proper gendering of surnames, but the Grisha trilogy is a separate fantasy world, not an attempt to recreate the actual culture.  Continue reading Russia-Infused YA Lit

Ruta Sepetys: Up Close and Personal

Let me start by saying that Ruta Sepetys is a spectacular speaker. As in mind blowing, jaw Ruta Sepetysdropping, side splitting, hands down one-of-the-best-visiting-authors-in-the-world good.  If you get the chance to book her at your library, do so! We had the great fortune to have her as our visiting author last week and she enchanted teachers, students, and parents alike with her remarkable stories.

Ruta started her adult life as a failed opera singer (her words, not mine!), a fact that led her to work behind the scenes in the music industry for 22 years. She came to writing later in life, although her interest in stories manifested itself in all of her many previous endeavors. Indeed, what makes her such an engaging speaker is her own personal narrative. From working on the Halo games to helping singers craft their stories for American Idol to managing well known bands, Ruta has consistently forged her own path and collected countless stories along the way.

out of the easyFans of her two books, Between Shades of Gray (2012 Morris Award Finalist) and Out of the Easy (2014 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults), will be particularly interested in how she came to write both novels. An avid researcher, Ruta immerses herself in the historical world she is writing about in order to truly experience the atmosphere she describes so evocatively in both her books. This devotion (dare I say obsession?) with authenticity has led her to be locked up in a WWII-era train car, as well as an overnight stay in a simulated Soviet prison ending in rather disastrous results (a story best heard in person).  Undaunted, Ruta has since schmoozed with the Mafia, visited once glamorous brothels in New Orleans, and even explored a sunken cruise ship replete with possible treasures.

What struck me most about my time spent with Ruta is her extraordinary graciousness. Every single minute of the day, she was focused on being open and available to her admittedly avid fans. She signed books every single day, took numerous selfies with the students, and responded to the many subsequent emails that kids wrote sharing their stories, their secrets, and their aspirations. And within it all, she also took the time to answer a few of my questions for the Hub.  Thank you, Ruta, for your inspiring visit, your commitment to teen readers, and for your lovely books.

Why are you drawn to writing historical fiction?

I’m drawn to secrets and history is full of them. Through characters and narrative, statistics and reported facts suddenly become human and we absorb history in a lasting way. Continue reading Ruta Sepetys: Up Close and Personal

Singles Ads, YA Book Style

_DSC2226 (2)It’s Valentine’s Day and love is in the air! Then again, when it comes to YA books,  love is always in the air around here.

Inspired by the Blind Date with a Book displays that are popping up in libraries this week, we are sharing some YA book singles ads with you. Read the blurb and try to guess which which book is looking for a reader. Answers will appear after the break.

Feel free to share your own blurbs in the comments!

  • Jessica Lind

1.  “Historical fiction seeks reader for a look at the effect of WWII on a Lithuanian family. This is a date for fans of beautifully written stories of hope during the toughest of times.”

2.  “Contemporary YA novel seeks reader as date for school trip to England. Shakespeare, mobile phones, and love await you.” 

3.  “Modern update on classic story seeks reader to flashback to New York’s rock scene in the eighties. Must be willing to jump between timelines to solve a mystery.”

4.  “Totally rockin’ graphic novel seeks reader to, you know, just, like, hang out. An interest in music and old school video games would be a total plus. May be required to travel through Subspace.”

  • Erin Daly

5.  “Sweet and funny romance seeks reader who loves film and Parisian travel.”

6.  “Modern fantasy seeks reader to explore the magical possibilities of origami, sentient textbooks, and folding reality.”

7.  “Collection of short stories seeks reader with a wide range of esoteric interests ranging from raising the dead to ethnography of magicians to television shows about libraries and boys who inherit phone booths to handbags with entire fairy realms inside.”

8.  “Suspenseful dystopian novel seeks reader to resist the alien invasion while reminiscing about the past and keeping alive the vow to rescue a sibling.”

  • Geri Diorio

9.  “Heartbreakingly realistic boarding school novel seeks reader who can handle rugby, violence, sexual fantasies, and growing pains. Enjoying comics is a plus.”

10.  “Award winning book linking seven stories across time and space seeks speculative fiction loving reader who wants to puzzle out the mysteries of love, family, and sacrifice.”

11.  “Like fairy tales? Like ghost stories? How about mysteries? Acclaimed YA novel combining all these elements seeks reader who is open to the idea of spirits from the past guiding us in the present. Must have courage and ability to resist pastries.”

12.  “Modern retelling of Shakespearian play seeks reader who is open to seeing what the minor characters can do. Love of fencing, thievery, an unrequited love a huge plus.”

  • Jennifer Rummel

13.  “The family next door has always been off limits, but that was before girl met boy. Now they secretly date.”

14.  “Girl has a gift and a curse. Someone wants to use her for a weapon, but she’s about to fight back.”

15.  “Girl gets sucked into dreams – one boy in particular has nightmares that could come true.”

16.  “Girl’s BFF moves away. She’s devestated until an interesting boy crosses her path.”

Continue reading Singles Ads, YA Book Style