The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore Knopf Books for Young Readers Publication Date: September 19, 2017 ISBN: 9781524701246
Wallace “Lolly” Rachpaul and his family are attempting to go through the motions, preparing for their first Christmas without his older brother, Jermaine… a “street pharmacist” gunned down in the neighborhood. The crew is now trying to recruit 12-year-old Lolly and others close to him to join them. Lol wants no part of that life and finds a reprieve engineering intricately detailed Lego creations that result in over 250,000 followers online.
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. Cady has always spent her summers on the private island off the coast near Cape Cod with her wealthy family plus a “special” family friend. But something happened two summers ago– and Cady cannot remember. According to her mother, Cady has been told the truth of what happened that night over and over, and everytime she forgets again. So, she returns to the island to try to dig up her memories. No matter how many times I re-read this fantastic tale, I cannot help the shock I feel when Cady remembers the truth.
Darkest Part of the Forestby Holly Black. Hazel and Ben grew up in Fairfold; a small town like many others. Except for the Fairies, they live there too. Oh, and there is a boy encapsulated in time asleep in a glass coffin in the woods. Usually the humans and the others live in symbiosis in Fairfold. But there are attacks. There are unexplained disappearances. When the siblings were younger, Hazel toted a antique sword and pretended to be a Knight while Ben played his flute and “enchanted” the monsters. But something happened, and now Hazel is just an average girl and Ben never plays music anymore. Hazel navigates her way through the murkiness of fairy rules and memories taken from her, and what she learns is shocking. Continue reading YA Literary Trope: The Buried Memories
As library workers, especially those of us who work with teens, our role can shift to “social worker” in an instant. Our teen patrons visit the library everyday and they begin to trust and confide in us. Because most of us don’t have the training to work with at-risk youth, we can feel a little helpless but we don’t have to because we have the power of a good book.
About a year ago, a member of my book discussion group seemed to be questioning his sexuality and he never talked about it. I gave him Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith to read because I thought the ending was perfect for his situation. He loved the book and now he’s very open with his sexuality and he accepts who he is. Did my recommendation help him? I don’t really know but I like to think it gave him some perspective. When I see a teen who I think or know is struggling with a personal problem, I’ll strike up a book conversation on their next library visit asking them what they like to read. If they are a reader, I’ll find a book from their favorite genre that deals with the subject they are struggling with.
In my library, I see homeless teens, teens with alcoholic parents, teens living with a dying parent, and teens dealing with gender identity and body image. I used to feel powerless but after I recommended Grasshopper Jungle, I realized that I could be an effective adult in the lives of teens. Below are a list of good books that blend popular genres with social issues. Gone are the days of feeling helpless. Say goodbye to sifting through numerous Google results. You now possess the power of reader’s advisory in a flash. You are the newest member of the Social Justice League!
I was lucky enough to attend the ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco last week and attended the YALSA YA Author Coffee Klatch sponsored by BLINK on Sunday, June 28th from 9 – 10 am. Allison Tran was there too and included some great photos in her post from the event.
I had the opportunity to have coffee while I met many of YALSA’s award winning authors, many of whom have appeared on one of YALSA’s six annual selected lists or have received one of YALSA’s five literary awards. In this speed-dating-like event, we sat at the tables and every five minutes or so the authors would come to our table to talk with us.
Participating authors included: M. T. Anderson, Leigh Bardugo, Deborah Biancotti, Virginia Boecker, Erin Bow, Martha Brockenbrough, Rae Carson, Selene Castrovilla, Carey Corp, Zak Ebrahim, Jack Gantos, Gail Giles, Amalie Howard, Jenny Hubbard, Bill Konigsberg, Michael Koryta, Daniel Kraus, Stephanie Kuehn, Susan Kuklin, Margo Lanagan, Lorie Langdon, Eric Lindstrom, Sophie Maletsky, Marissa Meyer, Jandy Nelson, Patrick Ness, Mitali Perkins, Kate Racculia, Luke Reynolds, William Ritter, Ginny Rorby, John Scalzi, Neal Shusterman, Andrew Smith, Allan Stratton, Nova Ren Suma, Jillian Tamaki, Mariko Tamaki, Scott Westerfeld, Carol Lynch Williams, and Suzanne Young.
These were the YA Authors who came to my table and a little of what they said (any inaccuracies are solely my fault):
Mitali Perkins talked about her latest middle grade book called Tiger Boy.
She said that publishers didn’t think young people wanted to read about teen characters from other countries but that hasn’t been the case. Perkins wants young people to read across borders. She said she’s gotten letters from kids from all over the US – like rural Kansas. They connect with her books and there’s a power that readers have over the story. She said that one of her previous books, Bamboo People (2011 YALSA Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults), is on twelve state reading lists. It has two boys as the main characters and lots of action and it’s still a popular read, even though it came out in 2010 and is set in Burma. The fact that it’s a coming of age story is universal. Perkins has drawn inspiration for her writing because she said she’s traveled a lot and lived in Thailand, Boston and in the Bay Area. Tiger Boy is a tribute to her dad. He became a talented civil engineer and traveled all over the world. She said she “writes to the boy who doesn’t think he is a reader.”
It’s a psychological mystery, set in Sonoma, CA and it has a lot of darkness to it. It features a female anti-hero. The girl was sent down from boarding school for almost killing another girl. She is cruel. She becomes reacquainted with a boy named Emerson she knew as a kid & they both have a connection with Emerson’s younger brother who sees visions of people dying. It’s told from a third person point-of-view because it’s easier to tell that way as it shifts from the different perspectives of the characters. Kuehn says her main character is a psychopath but there’s a humanity to her too. “We share common experiences – they’re human monsters.”
Forget the Tarot cards, crystal balls, and palm-readers. Toss aside those stale fortune cookies. You need only look to your bookshelf to understand your deepest personality traits. Look for some of your favorite YA titles below and you may find that my keen “psychic” abilities can be enlightening.
* Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver. There is more to you than meets the eye. You keep your secrets close, and may not be very trustworthy. But you love deeply and are very protective.
* Love is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson. You might have a hard time trusting yourself, but go with your instincts- they won’t steer you wrong. Be yourself and don’t try so hard to please others.
* The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough. You may feel like you are being influenced by forces greater than your own. But it’s OK, go with it. Don’t be afraid to get hurt and great things will happen.
* Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong. Others may call you inconsistent. Your horoscope sign may be best described as “Gemini.” You are brave, smart, and have a keen sense of justice. You develop strong connections to friends and family.
* The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (2009 Best Book for Young Adults). Some would call you are a guys’ guy. But don’t discount the fairer sex, you may find a wonderful friend. You may not be “book smart” but you are clever and can get yourself out of tough situations. Just believe in yourself, and don’t forget to appreciate your dog.
* All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. You are drawn to those in pain and have some dark times. Talking through it may help. We all have to go through difficult times. Let yourself mourn those you have lost. Continue reading YA Book Personality Test
As many of my posts here at The Hub illustrate, I am a longtime fan of genre fiction. My teenage reading habits primarily focused on several kinds of genre fiction including historical fiction, fantasy, and mysteries & thrillers. I have a particular fondness for that final category as it is also one of my father’s favorite genres and we continue to trade off book recommendations to this day. Accordingly, I’m always on the look out for new titles to read and to recommend to my equally suspense-addicted students.
As I expressed in my post about the particular appeal of Veronica Mars last spring, I especially enjoy genre fiction that takes advantage of its particular structure and characteristics to tackle larger topics and issues and tell complex stories in a fresh way. So I’ve been thrilled to see an especially rich crop of recent young adult novels that capitalize on specific qualities of the thriller subgenre to tell stories about the complicated intersections between gender, class, race, sexual orientation, mental health, sexuality, violence, innocence, guilt, and justice. These novels take advantage of careful pacing to build suspense and hook readers from their opening lines. Each features narrators hiding secrets from other characters, from the reader, and from themselves. These novels will not only keep you on the edge of your seat; they will also leave your mind spinning and buzzing for days afterwards.
Far From You – Tess Sharpe
Sophie is a survivor. She survived a nasty car accident when she was fourteen and the brutal prescription drug addiction that followed. Then when Sophie and her best friend Mina were attacked by a masked man in the woods, Sophie survived–and Mina didn’t. To make everything worse, everyone believes that it’s Sophie’s fault that Mina is dead; the police decided that the attack was a drug deal gone wrong and accordingly all fingers pointed towards Sophie. So even though she’d been clean for months before the murder, Sophie was shipped off to rehab and told be glad it wasn’t juvie. But now Sophie’s back and she determined to find out the truth behind Mina’s murder.
Complicit – Stephanie Kuehn
It’s been two years since Jamie saw his magnetic and frightening sister Cate and that’s precisely the way he’d like the situation to remain. But then his parents tell him that Cate has been released from jail where she’s been serving time for her role in a local barn fire that killed several horses and left another girl severely burned. Now it seems that Cate wants to see him and Jamie is beyond freaked out. Even after years of therapy, Jamie hasn’t been able to shake his strange bouts of amnesia and the occasional & unpredictable loss of sensation in his hands and the specter of Cate’s return only exacerbates his symptoms. Determined to gain some control, Jamie begins to dig deep into his past and his memories with possibly devastating consequences.
Pointe – Brandy Colbert
Theo is finally starting to get her life in order again. Her ballet instructor has singled her out as one of her top students and told her to seriously consider auditioning for specialized summer programs. It’s looking like her dreams of becoming one of the few African American professional ballet dancers might be in reach. She’s eating again, she’s got some great friends, and she might be on the verge of something special with an almost appropriate guy. Then Donovan Pratt returns. Before he disappeared a few years ago, Donovan was Theo’s best friend. And now Theo has all sorts of long buried memories bubbling up–including memories of her first boyfriend, a much older guy who disappeared around the same time as Donovan.
The Walls Around Us – Nova Ren Suma
Amber and Violet live in separate universes. As a longtime inmate at Aurora Hills Secure Juvenile Detention Center, Amber understands its rules and the subtle social dynamics. She treasures the brief moments of freedom in their strictly controlled lives–like the night when all the doors opened. Meanwhile, Violet thrives on the very different but equally rigid routine of intense ballet training. She’s counting the days until she can be free of the ugly events of a few years ago and make her escape to Juilliard. But while their lives seem worlds apart, Amber and Violet’s stories are inexorably intertwined by twisty web of secrets, broken friendships, murder, guilt, and innocence–all centered on Ori, Violet’s best friend and Amber’s cellmate at Aurora Hills. As she has with her earlier novels, Nova Ren Suma infuses this fascinating narrative with carefully orchestrated elements of magical realism.
Happily, this trend doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. Lauren Oliver’s newest novel, Vanishing Girls, explores a complicated relationship between estranged sisters through the lens of a page-turning mystery. Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton (May 2015) uses the high stakes competition and personal drama of an intense New York City ballet school as the setting for an adrenaline-fueled exploration of three different girls’ quests for dancing stardom. In June, The Devil You Know by Trish Doller andDelicate Monsters by Stephanie Kuehn both burst onto the scene and promise to bring mind-bending thrills and thought-provoking chills along with them.
-Kelly Dickinson, currently reading The Sweetheart by Angelina Mirabella and The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson
Unreliable, whiney, un-likable, liars—we’ve all read characters like this! I love to read a good book with a “bad” (and/or unreliable) narrator. This kind of flawed storyteller reaches to the reader and asks us to question, look deeper, and ponder truth and lies. It is a sign of an excellent author who can manipulate you to love the book and hate the character. Skilled writers make the reader believe the lies and then accept the truth.
Here are some favorite examples of protagonists I love to hate.
In this year’s Printz Award recipient I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson twins Noah and Jude lie to each other, lie to their parents, and lie to themselves (and by extension to us: the reader). With all the lies it’s no wonder there was so much to reveal in this tale. The sneakiness and bad treatment of each other made me distinctly dislike them. But Nelson also juxtaposed the twins’ nastiness with descriptions of how deeply they love each other.
Cadence from We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (2015 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults). Here is what I consider to be a likeable character and one whom I really felt for. But what if I knew the truth of what really happened that summer at the beginning of this book? Would I still have felt so sympathetic towards Cady?
Froi and Quintana from Melina Marchetta’s Lumatere Chronicles. Only Melina Marchetta (Printz Award winner) could take a predatory lowlife like Froi was when we first met him in Finnikin of the Rock (2011 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults) and turn him around so distinctly then lead him to star in his own story. Froi is redeemed in Finnikin of the Rock; grows in Froi of the Exiles, and become a hero in Quintana of Charyn. In the second installment of the Lumatere Chronicles Marchetta also introduces Quintana: one of the grossest characters I have ever imagined in a book and quickly made me love her. Quintana is prickly, deranged, damaged, paranoid, abused, and abusive. But she becomes a hero too—fiercely protective and thoroughly decent.
Check out previous interviews in the One Thing Leads to Another series here.
I credit the 2014 Hub Morris/Nonfiction Reading Challenge for the motivation to move debut author Stephanie Kuehn’s Charm & Strange to the top of my reading pile, and I’m so glad I did–what an astounding book! I was thrilled when it was named the winner of the 2014 William C. Morris Award. Of course credit for the presence of Complicit on the top of the reading pile as soon as it came out last month goes to Stephanie herself and I expect it will happen again with next year’s Delicate Monsters. If you haven’t had the pleasure (is “pleasure” the right word here? “mind-bending experience” might be more accurate) of reading her work you’ll want to rectify that immediately, at which point I won’t need to remind you to watch out for her next book because you’ll do that on your own. But if you haven’t had a chance to read some of the wiseandthoughtful things she has to say about teens and mental health, go do that too; the world of young adult literature is seriously lucky to have her.
Thank you so much, Stephanie, for taking the time to talk with me, for your honesty and for your thoughtful explanations–I could have asked a dozen more questions based on your fascinating answers! And I think The Smiths are kind of boring too.
Always Something There to Remind Me
Please describe your teenage self.
When I think back on who I was as a teen, I see a lot of contradictions. I was quiet and awkward. I was loud and gregarious. I was athletic. I was internal. I was lonely. I was social. I was passionate. I was morbidly apathetic. Maybe the only constant is that I’m still the same way. Consistently inconsistent.
What did you want to be when you grew up? Why?
I wanted to somehow be involved in filmmaking. I’m pretty sure I saw nearly every single horror film that came out on video in the eighties, despite the fact my parents didn’t even own a VCR. On weekends, I would walk to the video store, rent a VCR, along with as many movies from the horror section as they would let me, and then stumble home with my arms full and set everything up. Part of me wanted to direct films or write them, but I was also really interested in special effects.
As for whyâ€¦well, I’ve always felt a pull to do something creative, and films were an art form that I really connected with at that time of my life. Horror isn’t at all my thing anymore (too scary!), but the films I watched then were stories that explored emotions I wanted to explore: fear and doubt and distrust and disbelief and paradigm shifts about identity and who we are and what the world around us is all about. Continue reading One Thing Leads to Another: An Interview with Stephanie Kuehn
The Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia had its hands full on Monday, January 28, as a room full of excited librarians, publishers, authors, and other industry professionals breathlessly awaited the start of the annual Youth Media Awards. In fact, by the time I arrived (bleary-eyed and bushy tailed) at the convention center, it was 7:55 AM and there was no official room left for audience members. Instead, I found a seat in a “spillover” room where the awards were being broadcasted live on a screen. By 8:30 AM, the spillover room was entirely full.
My friend who called the YMAs “the librarian Oscars” was pretty spot-on, after all.
It’s hard to describe how incredible it was to witness people applaud, groan, cheer, whisper, and even shed tears over children’s and young adult literature. It’s even harder to describe how it felt to sit next to perfect strangers at 8 AM on a Monday morning knowing that they were just as passionate as you about youth media. Suffice it to say that I have never seen a room full of introverts whoop and holler so loudly before. For those who aren’t “in the know,” I would describe the purpose of the YMAs, in part, as providing “those fancy silver and gold stickers you see on the covers of books.”
Emceed by YALSA President Shannon Peterson, the program began with the Morris Award winner and finalists, introduced by Dorcas Wong, 2014 Morris Award Committee Chair.
Carrie Mesrobian, author of Morris finalist Sex and Violence, gave a heartfelt speech recounting the significance of libraries in her formative years. She was an avid library user during her youth, but never interacted with librarians as a teen. Despite this, she said, “No matter that I never spoke to a single librarian, the librarians kept the shelves stocked… Librarians regularly and reliably provided me with the books I needed.” And for that, she said, she is “forever grateful.”
Evan Roskos, author of Morris finalist Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets, had everyone in stitches byobserving that being honored for the Morris is a truly a once in a lifetime opportunity because, well… he can only debut once. He then told a story about how his book empowered a teen reader to get help for their mental health concerns. Of course, the inspiring nature of this anecdote turned to hilarity as he observed that “Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets actuallycaused someone to seek therapy.” He concluded by sharing his four-year-old son’s reaction to seeing his book cover. “Daddy, YOU wrote Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus?” This author is just as hilarious and thoughtful as his book. Continue reading ALA Midwinter 2014: YALSA’s Morris/Nonfiction Award Program & Presentation