Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Last week I started a new day job as a secondary school librarian (in England, that typically means ages 11-16). It is just as cool as it sounds working with students, surrounded by literature, having my own office, being the boss of my own bookish domain.

I've tidied and cleaned and made everything just so. I've become acquainted with the stacks and found the best covers to turn out for discovery. I have organised and made signs and posters. I have built something...

...but the readers have not come.

In two weeks, the library has lent out six books.

see Goodreads
As a small, rural school of roughly 240 students, this isn't terribly surprising (technically there are 45 books in the overdues list so closet readers there be). There just isn't the volume of people going into and out of the library for reading material. I have seen the same faces every day, but they're in the library to do their homework or research on the computer. I put out some board games for the vulnerable, who use the library to hide out, or the bored who spend break time wandering the grounds. Even they need coaxing toward the fiction shelves which are only an arm-stretch away.

It baffles me, but there are a lot of people that don't like reading. Like, that is a thing that exists.

see Goodreads
Some people are choosing to wander around aimlessly rather than discover the portals to Eretz or roam the secret passageways to the tomb of Elena. Some people would rather spin a piece of paper on the table than be transported to Paris and fall in love with a boy called Etienne and some would rather sit in a circle with their friends and stare at their thumbs than discuss the heartwrenching loss of Prim.

This is a thing!!

So, I'm doing the only thing a respectable librarian can do. I'm going to bribe them.

From November to March there is an event being organised by the School Library Service called the Essex Book Awards (Essex being the county the school is located). I have to somehow get a group of readers together, read some books, vote on our favourite and write reviews for the SLS blog. I am going to need a lot of bribes (sweets). Good thing Halloween is next week!

Watch this space for how I'm getting on. And if you were choosing from these books, which would you read first? I've only read SHE IS NOT INVISIBLE and thorougly enjoyed it. I think the students would as well if they could just quit their thing of not reading.

Others shortlisted for the award: I Predict a Riot by Catherine Bruton, Never Ending by Martin Bedford and The Middle of Nowhere by Geraldine McCaughrean.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Why do I get the feeling that our friends at YA Highway are trolling for embarrassing pictures? This week's question:

WHAT WAS YOUR BEST HALLOWEEN COSTUME EVER?

Source: Family Bites
Ingrid: Well, I really liked the woodland fairy outfit I wore to my friend's Halloween party last year!

But my best costume ever would probably be the one I had when I was six years old. My parents turned me into a "real" robot with silver tubing for my arms and legs, and big silver boxes to cover my head and body. I wore a pair of those fake glasses with lights that glowed when I pushed a button. The only problem was, the tubing kept my arms pulled out away from my body, like I was draped over a hanger. That got tiring really fast...


Stephanie: One year I was Rogue from X-Men. That was my favorite. One of these days I'm going to redo it.

Sarah: Strawberry Shortcake. I smelled awesome.

Kristan: Goodness, I can't even remember the last time I dressed up... Maybe freshman year of college? I went as a ninja, because I had black pants, a black shirt, and a second black shirt to wrap around my face for the ninja mask.

To be honest, I've always been kind of lazy about costumes. Even as a kid. My Pocahontas costume was a beige t-shirt with torn fringes. I repurposed a "Queen of Hearts" costume to be about 5 different things -- including the "Firebird" pictured here. And one year I wrapped a flowered cloth around my waist (with jeans on underneath) and said I was "Hawaiian." So, you know, this really isn't the best question for me to be answering...

I much prefer seeing great costumes on Halloween, as I man the candy bowl at the door!

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

Join in the fun by leaving your answer in the comments here, at YA Highway, on your own blog, or on Twitter (and be sure to use the hashtag #roadtripwednesday!).

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

YA author Paolo Bacigalupi recently stated:
The more I write stories for young people, and the more young readers I meet, the more I'm struck by how much kids long to see themselves in stories. To see their identities and perspectives—their avatars—on the page. Not as issues to be addressed or as icons for social commentary, but simply as people who get to do cool things in amazing worlds. Yes, all the “issue” books are great and have a place in literature, but it's a different and wildly joyous gift to find yourself on the pages of an entertainment, experiencing the thrills and chills of a world more adventurous than our own.

The Walled City
THE WALLED CITY by Ryan Graudin is one such "joyous gift."

The dystopian-ish setting was inspired by the real-life district of Kowloon, a lawless, walled-off settlement in Hong Kong. Almost the entire cast of the story is Chinese -- but that's incidental. Ethnicity and culture aren't the point; they're just a part of the details.

The story is about a girl trying to find her kidnapped sister, a boy trying to redeem his criminal past, and the vulnerable young woman who connects them. The writing is lyrical and lush, the plot tense and exciting. THE WALLED CITY definitely falls on the grittier end of the YA spectrum, but there's hope and romance too. I think the book would appeal to fans of Veronica Roth, Marissa Meyer, and Marie Lu.

More importantly, I think there are thousands of young Asian readers who will appreciate seeing themselves reflected in Jin, Dai, and Mei Yee. Who will enjoy being the hero of the adventure, instead of just the geeky best friend or sidekick. I know that Teenage Me would have.

And non-Asian readers will identify with these characters too! Because they're human. They dream, they fear, they strive, they fail. Like any of us. Like all of us.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Our friends at YA Highway are on a Halloween kick this month. Their question for the week:

WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE HORROR MOVIE?

Kristan: I don't enjoy truly scary or gruesome movies. (There's enough of that on the nightly news, thanks.) I prefer "fluffy" horror films like Scream or I Know What You Did Last Summer, which are honestly probably the first/last/only horror movies I've watched, hahaha. They're so campy that I can't help but laugh, even right after I jump and scream.


Stephanie: I also don't enjoy anything too scary or gory. It's just not worth losing my peace of mind when I'm going to sleep at night. Most of the scary movies I like are actually "thrillers" like The Sixth Sense, where the focus is more on the story line than on jump scares and blood.

Ingrid: I really can't stand horror movies. Even watching a trailer for a horror movie can keep me awake all night. Even the silly ones like Scream give me the willies. However, I do enjoy paranormal films like The Sixth Sense and psychological thrillers like Misery.


Sarah: Um, horror. Yeah. I have passively watched loads (my other half is a fan of horror), but the only film to actually grab my attention and keep me riveted was Pan's Labyrinth. Not a traditional horror, but perhaps a fantasy that stares down the dark hallways of gore and madness without blinking. I loved this film so much that I have built a shrine to it in my memory and have locked the door. I don't think I want to go back in there... I don't think.

You: Join in the fun by leaving your answer in the comments here, at YA Highway, on your own blog, or on Twitter (and be sure to use the hashtag #roadtripwednesday!).

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

(Katsa artwork by Maseiya on deviantArt.)

Hello everyone! After losing my mom this past March, I took a sabbatical from blogging. This is what the other WHYA girls are calling my Triumphant Return... well, we’ll see how triumphant it is.

Since my mom passed away, due to grief or busyness or lack of motivation, I haven’t been getting into books very easily. So one of the things I’ve been doing to combat that is listening to audiobooks.

One of the audiobooks I’ve listened to recently is BITTERBLUE by Kristin Cashore, the final book in the Graceling Series. It was my favorite of the three. I loved the mystery and the world building, I loved the characters, I loved that it’s formatted differently than most fantasy novels. One interesting thing I noticed was how differently I felt about Katsa in BITTERBLUE than I did in GRACELING. To be honest, I had a hard time liking her in GRACELING. But yet, I absolutely loved her in BITTERBLUE.

Part of this is because I listened to both books as audiobooks, and the performances of the first and third books in the series are very different. The audiobook for GRACELING is read by a full cast, with the narrator voiced by an American male and Katsa’s dialogue by an American female. BITTERBLUE, however, is read by a single British actress who uses a Scottish accent for Katsa’s dialogue that reminded me very much of Merida from Brave, adventurous and fun and feisty.

Another difference between the two books is that in BITTERBLUE, Katsa is a secondary character. I was seeing Katsa through Bitterblue’s eyes rather than her own. Bitterblue sees Katsa as someone to look up to, someone loveably wild and brave, and so that was how I saw her too. In GRACELING, Katsa’s self-loathing kind of got old for me. It does serve its purpose, but I found it hard to like a character who hates herself so much. Which is interesting, because I loved Briony Larkin in CHIME by Franny Billingsley, who also struggles with self-hatred caused by a misunderstanding of who she is.

It’s funny what a difference the perception of another character and the interpretation of the audiobook readers can make. It makes me wonder how I would see other characters if I was reading about them through a different point of view. Or if I heard their story read by someone else’s voice.


Friday, October 3, 2014

The winner of our September commenter giveaway is Reading Underground. Congratulations! Please email us (weheartya at gmail dot com) to let us know which book from our stash you would like, and where to mail it.
* * * * *
Blue Lily, Lily Blue (The Raven Cycle, #3)First thing's first, she's the realeast: The third installment of Maggie Stiefvater's Raven Cycle series is coming out this month! BLUE LILY, LILY BLUE promises even more adventures between Blue Sargent and her Raven Boys. Magic, dreams, and mystery. Thank goodness the wait is almost over!

My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday StoriesNormally we don't like to jump on the holiday train too soon, but this year we're making an exception for MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME, the anthology of love stories edited by Stephanie Perkins. So many of our favorite authors contributed, and (no surprise to us) the collection is garnering its fair share of starred reviews. Huge thanks to Teen Lit Rocks for pre-ordering a copy for us!

Glory O'Brien's History of the FutureScold us if you must, but here's a confession: We haven't read any A.S. King yet! She's always on our list, but as you all know, the list is ever-growing, ever-changing. Maybe her new one, GLORY O'BRIEN'S HISTORY OF THE FUTURE will be the book that finally does the trick. The story deals with a high school girl who can see the future, and it isn't pretty. What will she do to change it?

Two forthcoming fantasy books have been getting tons of good buzz: THE YOUNG ELITES by Marie Lu and SNOW LIKE ASHES by Sara Raasch.

And then, on the flipside, there are two contemporaries that have really piqued our pickle: OF SCARS AND STARDUST by Andrea Hannah and EVEN IN PARADISE by Chelsea Philpot.

The Young Elites (The Young Elites, #1) Snow Like Ashes (Snow Like Ashes, #1) Of Scars and Stardust Even in Paradise
What did we miss? What new releases are you guys looking forward to this month?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Knockout GamesThis month's book was a doozy. I don't want to give too much away, so I'm just going to share the description and then let you dive right into our book club chat!

* * *

For Kalvin Barnes, the only thing that comes close to the rush of playing the knockout game is watching videos of the knockout game. Kalvin's crew always takes videos of their KOs, but Kalvin wants more something better. He thinks if someone could really see the game for what it was, could appreciate it, could capture the essence of it that would be a video for all time. The world would have to notice. 

That's where Erica comes in. She's new in town. Awkward. Shy. White. But she's got a good camera and a filmmaker's eye. She could learn. Kalvin could open her eyes to the power he sees in the knockout game; he could make her see things his way. But first she'll have to close her eyes to everything else. 

For a while, Kalvin's knockouts are strangers. For a while, Erica can ignore their suffering in the rush of creativity and Kalvin's attention. Then comes the KO that forces her eyes open, that makes her see what's really happening. No one wins the knockout game.


* * *

The Reading Date: So, general impressions of KNOCKOUT GAMES? My thoughts: Tense. Uncomfortable. Riveting.
Teen Lit Rocks: Yes, very tense and out of my comfort zone to read.
We Heart YA: I liked that I really didn't know where things would end up for Erica and for Kalvin.
Teen Lit Rocks: Yes, I was never sure of Kalvin for the majority of the book, which of course, is exactly how she felt too.
The Reading Date: Erica was so desperate to belong and Kalvin completely charms her. It would be interesting to read this book from Kalvin's perspective, though the outsider pov was also compelling.
We Heart YA: I think it would have been really difficult to write this story from Kalvin's POV and have it offer readers a satisfying ending... However, I still felt uncertain about using a "white girl outsider" as the narrator. Also, the jacket copy seemed to be more from Kalvin's POV, so Erica's narration came as a surprise to me. I liked her arc, her story. But I just wasn't sure about how her race and outsider-ness factored in...? (Like, I'm not saying it's bad. I'm just not sure it's good either?)
We Heart YA: Also, as much as the book tries to humanize the group of kids who played the knockout games -- and to show what would lead them to do it -- I still really, really struggled to understand and empathize. (But I LOVE that the story pushed me to try!)
The Reading Date: Great points! I think we are meant to be really uncomfortable with the KO games and I agree that it was very hard to empathize. All of the members of the group including Erica seem to come from broken homes and were seeking to take back some control in their lives.
Teen Lit Rocks: I found this story really timely given what happened in Ferguson. It made me think of black kids so disenfranchised that they feel like they're in this band of brothers where the only control and power they have is to see if they're man enough to knock someone out.
We Heart YA: YES. I was definitely thinking about Ferguson too.
The Reading Date: This response in the Q&A is relevant to our discussion:
"4. How did you come to incorporate the diverse elements in your book? In real life, most of the kids engaged in this game were black. I made one of the main characters white because I didn’t want white people to write it off as a ‘black thing’. I wanted to show these kids were human and not so different than you despite what they were doing. I was also very interested in exploring mixed race couples and how that affected the larger groups. It gave plenty of opportunity to talk about race and gender issues and things that are going on now in Ferguson." 
We Heart YA: Yes, I love that he touched on so much in this book. The story was really rich that way. The violence, the desire to belong, mixed race relationships, art as an outlet, the danger of social media, etc...
The Reading Date: This book does incorporate so many topical issues! It was interesting the way they used social media, especially Facebook (something teens don't use much). How could they think the videos they shared were private? I was cringing when Kalvin recorded Erica and his private moment.
Teen Lit Rocks: Well you can share things just with one person on FB so that's not completely out of the question. 
We Heart YA: Yeah. Also, despite the use of the name, I didn't take "Facebook" too literally -- I just thought of it as whatever social media network kids might be into at the time.
Teen Lit Rocks: I liked the brief moment we met Kalvin's mom.
We Heart YA: Yeah... his mom was kind of heartbreaking, though.
The Reading Date: The scenes where we were let inside Kalvin's life were powerful and explained a lot.
Teen Lit Rocks: Yes, of course, but it humanized him. And he's right when he tells Erica she could never understand because a white girl wouldn't be targeted the way he and his friends are -- even before they started getting into trouble.
The Reading Date: Have the knockout games been an issue in either of your neighborhoods and if not how would you react if they started to pop up?
We Heart YA: Not in my neighborhood specifically, but there were a couple incidents in the Cincinnati area last year that were (at least according to the news) due to the "wave of Knockout Games sweeping the nation" (or whatever). It's definitely scary, the idea that you're not safe anywhere. And that you could be targeted randomly, for no reason. I didn't personally react in any particular way, except to be sad (and a bit skeptical) about the idea of anyone taking pleasure in that kind of senseless violence. I'm sure there was some increased police presence in the areas where the incidents occurred.
Teen Lit Rocks: I think they're a thing here in DC and also in Baltimore.
The Reading Date: Why do you think Erica got involved? Because of her frustration over her broken home? Needing to belong? Wanting to be admired for her video skills? Falling for Kalvin?
We Heart YA: All of the above, lol.
Teen Lit Rocks: I think all of the above! She was lonely and out of place and wanted to feel a connection to anyone since her mom was working such long hours and they basically had split shifts. I'm not saying it's her mom's fault, but I think her mom definitely didn't do her research about the neighborhood where she was moving and how it would affect Erica to be one of very few white kids at the high school. And obviously she was too broke to live anywhere else.
Teen Lit Rocks: And yes, of course it helps when a guy who looks like Dr. Avery from Grey's Anatomy starts showing an interest in you!!
The Reading Date: I like that this book doesn't provide easy answers, though I wish there were some.
We Heart YA: Ditto. (And LOL at the Grey's reference.) I guess I'm an idealist, but I wish even the worst neighborhoods in this country wouldn't have problems like this. I mean, I know you're not going to get a perfect utopia... but I think we can do better, with allocating resources, with supporting and nurturing more teachers to be like Mrs. Lee, etc.
Teen Lit Rocks: Well, there are working poor communities that are safer than others. And depending on where you live, they are usually more diverse although still segregated. But I'm sort of a pessimist when it comes to race relations and neighborhoods that have experienced white flight. Those neighborhoods are basically abandoned and then they're treated so poorly by the police or just generally written off… And then things don't change unless white hipsters or desperate couples with means decide to risk it and buy in those neighborhoods.
The Reading Date: I think the town [in the story] needed more Mrs. Lee's...
We Heart YA: For sure! Although I'm glad the story included black "good guys" too, like Destiny and Tyreese.
The Reading Date: I liked Destiny's friendship with Erica especially.
[Note: The next part is a partial spoiler, though the general idea of a tragic turning point is pretty obvious from the book's blurb.]
The Reading Date: It's sad that a death that hits close to home has to happen before people start to wake up. 
We Heart YA: Yes, it seems like 99% of the time, that's the real catalyst for action. For problems that are seen and known and just ignored for a long time.
Teen Lit Rocks: I think this would be a great book for high schoolers to read during an urban studies or current events or race relations unit. So much to discuss!
We Heart YA: Yes. To be honest, I can't say I enjoyed reading it -- like, "Oh how fun! I would recommend this to all my friends!" -- but I think it was an important and useful story.
Teen Lit Rocks: Right -- it's not a light and breezy read, but it will stay with you I think.
The Reading Date: Absolutely! I want to check out G. Neri's back catalog - I like his voice in the YA landscape.

For more on KNOCKOUT GAMES, be sure to check out all the YA Diversity Club posts:

••• Q&A with author G. Neri at Teen Lit Rocks. Neri talks about what inspired the story, what he hopes the book might accomplish for young readers, and more.

••• "5 Rounds with Knockout Games" at the Reading Date. Lucy shares the many reasons to add this book to your TBR pile.

Also, next month we'll be discussing LIES WE TELL OURSELVES by Robin Talley. Feel free to read along with us!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014
Something is going on in the Middle Grade world...something creepy...something monstrous. Okay, this is not our usual age range of books (*ahem* WeHeartYA), but I thought I'd do a bit of spotlighting some MG reads that look just a bit irresistable.

Have you seen the cover for MONSTROUS by MarcyKate Connolly? I just think it's the best, creepiest thing. Love when a cover tells a story even before the story begins! The thing about MG that YA doesn't always have is that currency to live and breath fairytales. Monsters, goblins, faeries...they all make sense to young readers. Okay, adults old and young can access this too (see brilliant article), but it's a different experience. As an adult, you can (usually) put the monsters away. This book releases next February...come on, already!

THE TWISTROSE KEY by Tone Almhjell. Unusual in premise, and compelling if you've ever had a pet and wondered (wished) where they go after they die in this world. I've been meaning to read this one for ages! Parts Narnia and parts Golden Compass, this book is a classic in the making, and popped onto my radar when Laini Taylor recommended it. Every so often I hear its ping. Get this book!

I had the pleasure of recently reading an e-ARC of EREN by Simon P. Clark, which has just released in the UK and soon to be in the US. Dudes. This book would have claimed my waking hours as a child. It's real, it's abstract, it's creepy, it makes me think, it makes me cringe, it reminds me of all the things I thought and felt about adults and my peers when I was young. "A story must be told to the end." There is a meta-element to it that is interesting from a storyteller's perspective, there is a mythology that made me all goose-pimply, and there is a monster unlike any I've seen in fiction before. Another reason to avoid attics in old houses, in case you needed one! To some, this book might read quite straight forward. But if you let the story in, let Eren in, I think you'll be delighted and horrified by the inevitable conclusion.
Thursday, September 18, 2014

Last week, thanks to an invitation from Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Stephanie and I had the pleasure of meeting Sandy Hall, the first author to be discovered and signed to the Swoon Reads imprint. Swoon is an exciting new project from MacMillan -- a contest that might be best described as YA-meets-American-Idol.

Here's Sandy, charming us with details of the romance between college students Lea and Gabe -- and also sharing her experience on this journey of writing and publication.


Fun factoids from the evening:
• Sandy had been working in libraries since she was 16 years old.
• She loves and values having "a finger on the pulse" as a YA librarian now.
• She had written in the past -- and "failed NaNo for several years in a row."
• She also failed freshman writing in college -- which means "there is always hope for anyone!"
• Mostly she wrote fanfic. (For Glee!)
A Little Something Different• Last fall she saw the call from Swoon Reads for manuscripts, consulted with one of the teens she knows ("What kind of YA romance do you want to read?"), and then sat down and started writing A LITTLE SOMETHING DIFFERENT.
• Sandy loves the Swoon community, which is full of supportive and enthusiastic readers and writers.
• Because of her fanfic background, the "crowdsourcing" aspect of Swoon Reads felt familiar to Sandy.
• When MacMillan wanted to call Sandy about her deal, her mom warned, "If they ask you for money, it's a scam!"
• Working with MacMillan was a dream come true, and they helped her edit the story to be even stronger.
• They reduced the number of POVs, and also made Lea a freshman instead of a junior. This basically required rewriting half the story.
• ALSD is definitely a YA story, even though it's set at "Fake Rutgers."
• Now Sandy is working on something new, and it is for MacMillan again, but it probably will not feature multiple POVs.
• She likes to write early in the day, and probably averages 1,000 to 1,500 words. (But on a good day, she can write double that!)
• Chuck Wendig's blog Terrible Minds = her Bible. She particularly relies on (what Chuck calls) a “vomit draft,” in combination with her own system of index cards (which you can see pictures of in ALSD).

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Stephanie, Ingrid, Sarah & Kristan — we read, write, discuss and celebrate Young Adult lit.


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on the shelf

The Bitter Kingdom
Wild Awake
The Raven Boys
Mind Games
Eleanor and Park
The Shattered Mountain
The Shadow Cats
Transparent
Froi of the Exiles
Days of Blood & Starlight
Every Day
Jellicoe Road
Finnikin of the Rock
Guitar Notes
The Dead-Tossed Waves
The Crown of Embers
New House 5: How A Dorm Becomes A Home
Bitterblue
The Fault in Our Stars
Pretties


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