Tuesday, February 2, 2016

I recently read The Martian by Andy Weir and loved it. Even though it isn't a Young Adult book, I still think it's something teens would enjoy. One thing I really liked about it was how many different forms bravery takes in the story.

First, there's the most obvious, the main character Mark Watney, who has to find the courage to survive, even though he knows he probably will never make it off Planet Mars. Then there's Commander Melissa Lewis, who has to be brave in the knowledge that Mark survived the storm and that she left him behind, and look after the rest of her crew rather than let guilt consume her. The book has many characters who have to risk their careers, their reputation, and their lives to do what's right.

This has had me thinking about how sometimes bravery comes in unexpected places, so I asked the other We Heart YA girls to talk about a character they've read about recently that showed courage in an unconventional, misunderstood, or not so obvious way (ie. not the staring down literal dragons, going to actual war kind of courage).

Kristan

I recently read Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert, and I was blown away by the writing, the tension, and most of all, by the protagonist Braden. Although he is just a teenager, Braden is forced to face something that takes years -- well into adulthood -- for most of us to understand and accept: That our parents are only human. They are flawed and will make mistakes. Sometimes big ones. In Conviction, Braden's father's mistakes may have cost someone their life. Only Braden knows what really happened, and he has to search within himself for the courage to be honest, to speak up, and to live with the consequences. To me, that kind of bravery is perhaps the most important, because it's what allows us to live authentically.


Ingrid


Willowdean from Dumplin' by Julie Murphy

Texas teenager Willowdean has no interest in being a beauty queen. But she decides to enter the town's beauty pageant anyway--to make a point. As she comes to grips with the death of her 36-year-old obese aunt, clashes with her former beauty-queen mom, grapples with why she feels self-conscious kissing the cutest boy in town, and struggles to maintain her friendship with her skinny best friend, Willowdean decides that her own weight shouldn't preclude her from participating in the town's biggest event. I think Dumplin' shows an authentic portrayal of the self-consciousness many teens struggle with, and the courage it takes to overcome it. In the book, Willowdean's decision inspires her classmates to face their own fears and as a result, they all grow into more confident individuals. In real life, I believe it can inspire readers to do the same.

Sarah


Archivist Wasp by Nicole Kornher-Stace

As an Archivist, Wasp's job is to catch and study ghosts before returning them to the realm ruled over by the goddess Catchkeep. Essentially an avatar for the goddess, the Archivist is chosen from amongst a group of girls, called "upstarts," who bear the mark of Catchkeep and who fight to the death for the honor of fulfilling this role.

Having been the Archivist for three years running, Wasp has already killed so many upstarts. Dealing with ghosts everyday on her own, Wasp is weary with death and questions the purpose of it all. At the annual gathering to determine the next girl to be Archivist, Wasp makes a choice that goes against everything she has known and been taught in her people's history. She refuses to take part in killing anymore.

It's incredibly courageous to act against tradition, expectation and religious authority. To question the world we live in. And though it brings her all sorts of trouble and pain, her instincts lead to an important discovery about those in power and the nature of the ghosts themselves.
Friday, January 15, 2016


My favorite part of being in YA Diversity Book Club is reading and bringing attention to stories that promote a more inclusive -- and thus more interesting -- view of the world. My least favorite part is that we don't have time to READ ALL THE THINGS! Alas.

Below are a few of my most anticipated diverse reads for 2016. Hopefully we'll pick some of them for #YADBC. The rest I will (happily) just have to tackle on my own!

The Girl from Everywhere (The Girl from Everywhere, #1)THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE by Heidi Heilig

World travel + time travel + sea travel, written by a biracial Hawaiian.
Gone to DriftGONE TO DRIFT by Diana McCaulay

Set in a Jamaican fishing village, a boy goes searching for his grandfather, who is lost at sea. The YA debut of an award-winning Jamaican author.
The Star-Touched QueenTHE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN by Roshani Chokshi

High fantasy inspired by Indian mythology. For a taste of this writer's achingly lovely style, check out her short story "The Star Maiden."
If I Was Your GirlIF I WAS YOUR GIRL by Meredith Russo

A trans girl falling in love, nervous the boy will not accept her past. Written by a trans woman.
A Torch Against the Night (An Ember in the Ashes, #2)A TORCH AGAINST THE NIGHT by Sabaa Tahir

Sequel to our April 2015 pick, AN EMBER IN THE ASHES, which I loved.
Into WhiteINTO WHITE by Randi Pink

A black girl in the Bible Belt prays to be white. Her wish comes true.
To see what Lucy is looking forward to this year, head over to The Reading Date.

To see what Sandie is looking forward to this year, check out Teen Lit Rocks.

And as ever, you can find the entire YA Diversity Book Club archives on Tumblr, including author interviews and upcoming selections. Hope you will read along with us!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016


One of our favorite things to do every holiday season is to reflect on what we've read during the year. Here are our top picks for 2015.

SARAH

Best book that I can't believe I didn't know existed until this year – ROOFTOPPERS by Katherine Rundell

Made me see the world differently – THE DARKEST PART OF THE FOREST by Holly Black

When I finished this, I instantly went back to the beginning for a re-read – THE ACCIDENT SEASON by Moira Fowley-Doyle

Favourite – NIMONA by Noelle Stevenson


Rooftoppers The Darkest Part of the Forest The Accident Season Nimona


INGRID

BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY by Ruta Sepetys – This book is slug me in the gut good.

DREAMS OF GODS AND MONSTERS by Laini Taylor – Looove this book, this series, this writer. Manically love it!

CODE NAME VERITY by Elizabeth Wein – Amazing.

Between Shades of Gray Dreams of Gods & Monsters (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #3) Code Name Verity (Code Name Verity, #1)

KRISTAN

A fantastic adventure that kind of flew under the radar (pun intended) – BLACK DOVE WHITE RAVEN by Elizabeth Wein

A haunting tale (pun intended) of fierce friendships – THE WALLS AROUND US by Nova Ren Suma

Heart-wrenching, well-written, thoughtful, and timely (no puns for this one) – CONVICTION by Kelly Loy Gilbert

Black Dove, White Raven The Walls Around Us Conviction

STEPHANIE

INKHEART by Cornelia Funke
 – I put off reading this for so long because the movie was so mediocre. But the book is beautifully written.

NIGHTBIRD by Alice Hoffman – Magical Middle Grade that made me crave pie. A lot.

THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir – Science Fiction often lacks heart, but this book had so many characters that made me fall in love unexpectedly.

Inkheart (Inkworld, #1) Nightbird The Martian

What were your favorite reads of 2015?

Thursday, December 31, 2015


Sarah's Prompt:


First things first: I reject labels. What does Misfit even mean? I know the Island where we all end up--the train with the square wheels, the bird that swims, a pink fire truck--I get it. But there's nothing wrong with those guys. That's the whole point--they're all unique and sing catchy tunes. They all get a home in the end.

Thing is, I'm the Misfit of the Misfit Toys. A fairy-princess-ninja-assassin that will never get a home. Some kid dares to dress me up in pink? I will slice my way out of it. So what if a finger gets in the way or an eyeball. It's only a flesh-wound. Kids are resilient. Confession: I'm not a fairy-princess-ninja-assassin. I mean, if that toy ever got made it'd be a best seller.

But still, I'm the Misfit of the Misfits. I'm the Drop-It-Like-It's-Hot-Not-So-Easy-Bake-Oven where everything you make is a recipe for disaster. Just go ahead and try baking your brownies. It'll be grand. If you like your dessert en flambe.

What's that you say? You don't believe me?

Well then. I'm the missing Lego piece that ruins your entire design. The Lego that you step on in the middle of the night on the way back from the bathroom and now you can't get back to sleep because of the throbbing pain and you seriously consider going to the ER. You might as well, you're wide awake.

YOU CAN'T PLAY WITH ME, OKAY? There. I've said it. I'm a toy that doesn't want to be played with. Your mama doesn't want you to have me. Why are you still here?

What's my name? If I tell, will you go away?

FINE. I'm Little Liar Lucy. Read my tag, genius.

Have you been naughty? Did you recently give your dog a bath in a mud puddle? Tell your parents that Little Liar Lucy made you do it. It's written right on my box: 'Guaranteed to get you out of the most predicamental of predicaments.' I'll whisper a lie to you that has been tried and tested. Simply pull the string on my back and I'll repeat one of the classics: "I didn't do it" or "He hit me first." If all else fails, open the compartment on the back of my head and turn the switch to emergency. It will put you straight through to our call centre where the Little Liar Lucy hive mind will devise a lie especially suited to your needs and situation. It may cost you a literal arm and a leg, but that's why you have two. And I'm sure they'll grow back.

Little Liar Lucy--better than your best friend.


Thursday, December 24, 2015


Stephanie's Prompt:

It was a snowy morning in December when the child who occupied room twenty-three left for good. Old toys and clothes were discarded, no longer needed. The sheets were stripped from the bed, and the floor was swept. A box of hand-me-downs found its way onto the old dresser in the corner, a box that contained pink sheets — clean but not new — several picture books with fraying cloth covers, and a soft cotton rabbit with one ear.

The little white rabbit pushed through the blankets to the top of the box, peeking over its fraying cardboard edges. The table next to the bed had been crowded with yellow daisies, a pink balloon, and a small card that said Welcome Anna.

The little rabbit knew just what to do. It climbed out of the box, and with a leap surprisingly high for a so small a toy, bounded onto the squeaky bed. It fell into place on the pillow, just as the door swung open and a small girl with red hair stepped into the room, led by an older woman.

“This is your room,” the woman said to Anna, laying a hand on the girl’s shoulder. “Hopefully it will only be for a little while.”

Without answering, Anna crossed the room and curled up on the bed, hiding her tears from the woman in the doorway. She reached out for the little white rabbit, fingertips brushing the hole where the rabbit’s second ear should have been, and then she folded the soft toy into her arms. The little white rabbit with one ear smiled to itself, warm with the joy of a new child, a new home.

From that moment on, they were always together. The rabbit was there to catch falling tears, to be squeezed tightly until the heartache passed, and with a little time, to witness tentative smiles.

Then one day, Anna had her first visitors, a young couple who asked lots of questions. The little white rabbit watched Anna’s face glow as she told them about all the things she liked to do and all the places she wanted to go. But the glow faded when it was time for the visitors to leave. Anna’s eyes shined with tears as they said goodbye.

The little white rabbit knew just what to do. It leaned just a little to the side, tumbling off the dresser and onto the hardwood floor. It landed right in front of the couple as they made their way to the door. The young woman stooped to pick up the toy. She ran her gentle fingers over the rabbit’s stained fur and the hole where it’s other ear should have been.

The next morning, the pink sheets were stripped from the bed in room twenty-three, and the floor was swept. Old toys and clothes were gathered into a cardboard box. The soft cotton rabbit with one ear peeked over the edge of the box as it was carried down the hall.

They passed a room filled with balloons and people crowded in a circle and a big sign that said Happy Adoption Day, Anna. The rabbit smiled to itself.

Monday, December 21, 2015


Beautifully written and hauntingly tense, DELICATE MONSTERS does not ask easy questions, nor offer easy answers. (And we love it for that!) Fortunately for the YA Diversity Book Club, author Stephanie Kuehn agreed to answer a few of our questions, and we loved getting deeper insights about her story, the three main characters, and the themes of cruelty, compassion, sex, violence, and identity.


Please describe your book in a sentence or two.

After getting kicked out of her third boarding school in four years for almost killing a classmate, seventeen-year-old Sadie Su returns to her hometown of Sonoma and quickly seizes on the opportunity to toy with an old childhood friend—Emerson Tate, a boy Sadie happens to know holds unbearable secrets inside of him. Meanwhile, Emerson’s sickly—and possibly psychic—younger brother Miles has a vision of impending violence and seeks to discover what it is, setting off a chain of events in which the lives of all three teens unravel against the threat of this dark unknown.

What was your inspiration for writing this book?

There were lots of small things that inspired me. I wanted to write a female antihero, but not one anyone is meant to come to understand or who has a tragic backstory. I wanted to write a girl who is callous and cruel simply because she can to be. And I wanted to cast her against a boy who appears to be her opposite yet is similar to her in ways neither of them really understands. Both Sadie and Miles are people who see cruelty and compassion as zero-sum games, with Sadie determined to be the winner and Miles convinced that he’s a loser.

I also wanted to write a book that explored how acts of violence can happen for different reasons and the ways in which these actions are perceived. My initial question was: If you have three people who all commit violent acts, and the first person is someone who owns her actions; the second person is someone who feels guilty and/or rationalizes what they’ve done; and the third person is someone who is impaired in some way…do these explanations even matter? Or is it only the outcome that counts?

These questions led me to plot out the story in such a way that the reader moves through shifting vantage points of empathy; there are no fixed answers as to who is good or bad. That was important to me. Rather than approach morality prescriptively, I wanted to write a story that allowed teen readers to parse these issues for themselves.

What kind of research did you have to do to make sure your characters were authentic?

Culturally, I interviewed a number of teens and young adults who identify as biracial (Chinese American and European American) about their experiences growing up, as well as young people who came to the US from China to attend college (which was how Sadie’s father came to the United States). I also did a significant amount of research on family systems, personality disorders, paraphilias, abuse, parental loss, complex trauma, factitious and somatoform disorders—reading articles, books, watching videos, talking to clinicians who’ve treated teens struggling with these issues.

Delicate MonstersHow did you come to incorporate the diverse elements in your book?

They were all there from the start, those elements. The book is about cruelty and compassion, victims and victimizers, and I wanted to show all the different places those dynamics play out: through perceived distinctions in class, education, race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, mental health status, ability status. The characters bounce up against all of these lived experiences and have to reckon—for better or for worse—with the ways they use certain aspects of themselves to disempower or marginalize…as well as the ways they are simultaneously being disempowered or marginalized. Roman is the one person who ultimately models to Sadie what it might look like to disengage from this cycle of hurting to avoid being hurt, although what she takes from that is open to interpretation.

I know the book club asked in particular about Sadie’s and Emerson’s use of the n-word and why that word would come up if the vineyard workers they were around were primarily Hispanic (this is in reference to a childhood memory Sadie has of Emerson using “racial slurs” to refer to workers at her family’s vineyard), which I actually think is a good example of how this cycle of cruelty = power is perpetuated. I conceived of young Emerson as being the kind of kid who would run his mouth about anything racist, sexist, homophobic, etc—whether he’d picked this up from his mother, his father, or the auto repair shop where his dad worked isn’t specified. Conceivably Sadie would’ve heard a collection of these rants over the time they spent together, and that’s why she picks that word to taunt him with years later when he mentions playing basketball.

But Sadie’s recollection about him using racial slurs to address the vineyard workers is less about what words he uses in that instance, and more about her observation that he doesn’t say anything about her father. She recognizes that he’s using those words as a way to feel powerful—and that he feels disempowered by his family’s poverty. Later, of course, Sadie shames Emerson with his own words so that she can feel powerful.

How does the diversity in your book relate to your life?

I think all the aspects of diversity in the book are grounded from experiences in my life and the world around me. Biracial identity is important to me, personally, and while I don’t share the same background as Sadie, the negative space notion—that is, being defined by where you don’t fit in, not where you do, is one that I relate to. The interracial relationship between May and Emerson obviously has a lot of tension unrelated to race, but the elements of racism in their connection were important for me to convey. I feel like so many interracial relationships are written in such a way as to make the white character appear somehow free from bias, even when other people around them hold different views. That never feels authentic to me.

But beyond that, the core experiences in the book center around feeling like a bad person—having bad thoughts, wanting to hurt people who care about you (or wanting to hurt them because they care about you), using and demeaning others for one’s own benefit, or feeling worthless because you’ve been demeaned. These aren’t nice thoughts or actions, but they do happen. I don’t think we get anywhere or help anyone by pretending experiences like these don’t exist or by dehumanizing those who are involved in them.

What are some of your favorite YA books about diverse characters?

Pointe by Brandy Colbert
The Vast Fields of Ordinary by Nick Burd
Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert
Everything Leads to You by Nina Lacour
Stick by Andrew Smith
47 by Walter Mosley
All Our Pretty Songs by Sarah McCarry
Starglass by Phoebe North
Last Night I Sang to the Monster by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

What areas of diversity do you want to draw attention to or do you feel are underrepresented in books?

More than anything, I’m interested in exploring the intersection of mental illness with the psychology of adolescence. There are certain narratives or ways we talk about mental illness and teenagers that get told over and over again that I personally find disempowering, and also very limiting. There needs to be room for different types of stories. Even the really hard ones.

The characters in Delicate Monsters are all difficult people, but it was important to me to write each of them with the deepest of empathy. To see them as human is not to excuse their actions. Rather it’s a chance to expand our understanding of humanity—to look where we usually choose to look away. I wouldn’t write YA if I didn’t believe that all teens deserved to have their stories told. And I wouldn’t be a therapist if I weren’t always, always willing to listen.

* * * *

Want more DELICATE MONSTERS? Be sure to check out all of our great posts:

Our book club's discussion at Teen Lit Rocks
"Delicate Monsters: Further Reading (and Giveaway!)" at The Reading Date

The entire YA Diversity Book Club archives can now be found on Tumblr, along with information about our upcoming book selections.

Next month we will each be reviewing our favorite diverse reads from 2015 (even if they weren't our featured in our book club) and spotlighting a few diverse reads we're looking forward to in 2016!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015


And the adventure continues! Click here to read part one and find what this is all about.

Ingrid's Prompt:

Mollie loved me when she didn’t know any better.

I remember the day I was unwrapped—her 7th birthday. It was so dark and stifling in there with my plastic covered in rainbow-and-heart wrapping paper. I heard Mollie’s sweet, tinny voice before I ever saw her face, bookended by blond pigtails. She gasped when she saw me, and then she ripped the remaining wrappings off and my whole world lit up like sunbeams. “Oh, I loooove her!” Mollie cried out. “Ballerina Barbie… just what I always wanted!” She pulled me out of my box and hugged me, and from that moment on we were best friends.

For days, Mollie dressed me in sparkly tutus and sometimes in black sweats with the pink stripes for downtime between dance rehearsals. We had tea together and I went for rides in the basket of her bicycle. I didn’t know I was different—and neither did Mollie—until that evil girl Brianna Baker came over.

Brianna brought her own Barbies and their suitcase full of clothing and accessories, and the two girls plopped down on the floor. They played happily with us for a while, and then they decided to switch dolls. I smiled pleasantly, like I always do, my blue eyes sparkling with friendliness, my silken hair combed to glistening. But Brianna didn’t notice any of that; her eyes grew wide and horror-filled as she stared at—of all things—my feet! She threw me down like I was diseased and screamed in alarm. Mollie gently picked me up and cradled me, asking Brianna what was wrong.

“Look… at… her… feet!” Brianna cried out. “They’re flat!”

Confused, Mollie and I both gazed at my perfect little feet. Seemed fine to me. No warts or bunions that I could see. Then I looked at the other dolls—Brianna’s little army—and gaped. My feet were flat and theirs were all elegantly arched.

“It’s okay,” Mollie said uncertainly. “She can stand on her own. Your dolls fall over.”

“It’s not okay,” squawked Brianna. “She’s supposed to be a ballerina! She can’t even go up on pointe! She’s… a misfit.”

Mollie stroked my hair protectively and Brianna did not come back to the house for another playdate, but after that day Mollie didn’t play with me as much, or dress me in different outfits, or take me places. More than once I caught her studying my flat, flat feet with a concerned look on her face.

Then Christmas came, and with it a new toy for Mollie—Hollywood Barbie. Mollie loved Hollywood Barbie, who had the proper arched feet that a Barbie doll should have. And I was left in the bottom of the toy box, alone.

Once again, I was covered in darkness. My eyes did not glow, my hair became snarled with neglect. And then yesterday, I found myself thrown into a box that was tossed this way and that for what seemed like a long time.

Now the swaying has stopped and I’ve crawled out to explore my new surroundings. Sunlight momentarily blinds me, but soon I see a sign with an arrow pointing to an island, and all kinds of toy refugees are marching in that direction. I glance back at the box in which I was imprisoned. The word “DEFECTIVE” is stamped on the outside in big bold letters.

Shaking with fear and fury, I stomp my flat little feet over the bridge to the Island of Misfit Toys.



Tuesday, December 1, 2015


Every year, we try to put together some festive posts for the holidays, and it's always a lot of fun. This year we thought we'd try something different that would exercise our creative muscles, while still being holiday themed. So I came up with a Christmas prompt, and each of us wrote a one-page story about a misfit toy, and now we're sharing them with you. We hope your holidays are merry!

Kristan's Prompt:

We should have been a huge hit. We are cute and brightly colored. We have big round eyes and big round bodies — cartoonishly poofed out and squishable. When you squeeze us, we sing out with charming sounds. We are well made and easy to grip, even for clumsy babies. But older kids would play with us too. Anyone would play with us.

We should have been a huge hit.

But something happened at the factory. A wrong button got pushed, or a wrong order programmed into the machines. When we went down the assembly line, we got mixed up. We got messed up.

The cow says RUFF RUFF. The dog says NEEIIGGHH. The horse says QUACK QUACK. The duck says BAAAHHH. The sheep says MOOOOO.

At first we thought maybe everything would still turn out all right. Maybe no one would notice. Or maybe no one would mind too much, since we were still so adorable and fun.

But we were wrong.

We sat on the shelf, day after day. Every time a child walked up to us, the smile on their face would get bigger and brighter. We thought surely this would be the one. They would fall in love with us, the Roly Poly Farm Animals, and insist to their mother or father that they take us home.

Home…

Instead, they would squish Cow, or Dog, and the wrong sound would come out. And those beautiful happy smiles would melt away. They would look confused, disappointed. And then they would just move on down the aisle to some other toy. A toy that did what it was supposed to do.

So here we sit, sad and unloved.

Ruff ruff, neigh, quack quack, bah, moo.

Check back next week for the next installment!
Monday, November 23, 2015


Carry OnAccording to GoodReads...

"Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, a mystery and a melodrama. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story—but far, far more monsters."

According to us...

The Reading Date: First of all, did we all read Fangirl? Were you interested in reading more of Simon and Baz's story?

We Heart YA: HAHA great question. I LOVED Fangirl, but I found the fanfic interlude chapters to be a bit of a distraction. Fun! But not necessary. So no, I wasn't all that interested in Simon & Baz as part of Fangirl. But I kind of trust Rainbow Rowell with anything, lol.

The Reading Date: For me, the fanfic parts of Fangirl weren't my favorite parts. But I was surprised how much I really enjoyed these characters in Carry On.

The Reading Date: Carry On kind of makes me want to re-read Fangirl now for more of their story.

We Heart YA: oohhhh GOOD IDEA. I think those sections would mean more to me now -- or mean something different, anyway

The Reading Date: I'm sure you've both read Harry Potter. Did you compare the two "worlds" as you were reading Carry On?

We Heart YA: Not intentionally, but it's impossible not to see some parallels. To me, Carry On felt like if someone took Harry Potter, Twilight, and Rainbow Rowell's voice and then shoved it all into a blender. I mean that in a good way! The story is very much in dialogue with other stories -- but it's also very much Rainbow's own.

The Reading Date: Oh I love that!!! And yeah, even though this is new territory for Rainbow, being a work of fantasy, it still very much had her contemporary touch on it if that makes sense. It was accessible for me - someone not that crazy about fantasy.

The Reading Date: What has your experience been with fanfic? Ever read or written any?

Teen Lit Rocks: I have read a lot of fanfic but all Harry Potter

We Heart YA: I've read lots of fanfic, and written some, but it was all well before YA's heydey, so it was mostly TV shows I liked (such as Star Trek and Sailor Moon)

We Heart YA: I think Carry On is distinct from fanfic, even if it has some roots there, or similarities.

The Reading Date: Right? This book concept is crazy like fanfic of a fanfic- and it sounds like it wouldn't work but it does!

We Heart YA: lol Rainbow is magic that way. She makes all sorts of things that shouldn't work, work

The Reading Date: Hee yes! I saw Rainbow speak at Comic-Con this summer and she was saying how writing Carry On was so difficult for her. Writing Fantasy vs. Contemporary was so new and different. But yup she makes it work!

The Reading Date: It's a long book but it reads quickly, doesn't it?

We Heart YA: omg yes. Rainbow's prose is so simple and honest, I zip right through it

Eleanor & ParkThe Reading Date: What's your favorite Rainbow book?

We Heart YA: Fangirl, actually. I identified strongly with Cath, and even though I've never been to Nebraska, the story transported me right back to my college days, which are among the best and most formative of my life

The Reading Date: That totally makes sense about Fangirl. Cath is so relatable,

Teen Lit Rocks: I think Eleanor and Park is still my favorite but I love them all

The Reading Date: I'm cheating because I don't know that I have a favorite! But Fangirl is a good one- I like them all for different reasons. I really didn't expect to like Carry On so much though.

We Heart YA: I like them all for different reasons too, hehe, and I also did not expect to like Carry On so much

The Reading Date: So, was this a book you were drawn into right away because you were familiar with the characters from Fangirl? How did it compare to Rainbow's other books for you?

Teen Lit Rocks: To be honest I would sometimes skim the story within a story in fangirl so I wasn't sure how it would work for me. I needed assurances from a close friend and book blogger that it wasn't going to be just a rainbow-fied spoof of HP

Fangirl
We Heart YA: Mm, I didn't remember too much about the characters from Fangirl, so that wasn't the draw for me. I just adore Rainbow's storytelling and narrative voice -- which were strong as ever in this, even though it was a very different kind of book for her

The Reading Date: Were you satisfied with the book in the end?

Teen Lit Rocks: Yes! In some ways Simon has to sacrifice more of himself than Harry did and I wondered if she was the sort of HP fan who felt like Harry got off a bit too easy

We Heart YA: I finished the book pretty recently, so I'm still parsing out my feelings... but overall I would say yes, I am satisfied. I especially appreciated the commentary represented by Agatha and by the Mage

Teen Lit Rocks: And I was worried about the romance because m:m written by het women can be seen as slash instead of genuinely romantic

We Heart YA: While I'm not sure how I felt about the romance from Simon's side, I got chills from Baz's perspective

The Reading Date: I definitely shipped those two. The book really came alive for me when Baz came on the scene.

Teen Lit Rocks: Yes!

We Heart YA: YES!

Teen Lit Rocks: And you have to read like a third of it until he makes an appearance

We Heart YA: OMG I KNOW IT WAS TORTURE (I mean, not really torture, lol... But I was definitely anxious to meet him, and to find out why he was missing. (Numpties! Lol)

Teen Lit Rocks: Basically her romances ALWAYS work for me. She's the YA goddess of tension and anticipation

The Reading Date: Yes! I was super impressed with the story, the magic, the friendships and romance. And I was so skeptical but won over at the end. But I still want Rainbow to write more contemporary ☺

Teen Lit Rocks: Yes! I felt the same way

We Heart YA: In terms of diversity, there is the very obvious same sex coupling. But there was also subtle racial diversity (with Penelope and her family being Indian -- which wasn't an Issue at all, just a sidebar fact). And then there was what I thought was some interesting socioeconomic/class diversity, which was actually part of the plot.

Teen Lit Rocks: Indian Weasleys

We Heart YA: LOL so true. Although grumpier?

Teen Lit Rocks: I thought of Penelope as a mashup of Ron and Hermione. One True Friend, no romantic tension, large wizarding family, boyfriend she met on wizarding exchange.

Teen Lit Rocks: Lauren and I also noticed several Twilight references with the vampire romance

We Heart YA: Oh for sure! There were some good jokes/jabs in Carry On too, in reference to Twilight, Harry Potter, and a few other pop culture things I forget now. (Good natured jabs, I should clarify)

The Reading Date: I love that Rainbow is a Twilight fan!

We Heart YA: ME TOO. I hate how much hate Twilight gets. (There's a diff between criticism and hate)

The Reading Date: YES def.

The Reading Date: It was nice to see a gay romance at the center of the book. That's rare in fantasy, no?

Teen Lit Rocks: As the central story line yes. Although they exist… I just haven't read them! I did love Alex London's sci-fi/dystopian duology

The Reading Date: Oh right- Proxy was really good.

The Reading Date: Would you want to read more stories about Simon/Baz or should Rainbow move on to something new?

Teen Lit Rocks: I feel like she should go back to contemporary

We Heart YA: Hm. I feel like Simon/Baz is fairly complete at this point... She took them through their big journey

We Heart YA: I know that when we love stories, it's tempting to want more, but sometimes when authors give us more, they just muck things up... :P

The Reading Date: Agreed!

Teen Lit Rocks: Yes! I also think that sometimes publishers want bestselling authors to stay with their beloved universe/characters too long. It's like the equivalent of jumping the shark

We Heart YA: Exactly

Teen Lit Rocks: Like there are a few authors I want to read more from -- but not if it's yet another series about the same fairies/demonhunters/vampire lovers

We Heart YA: I love how Rainbow keeps moving on, giving us great standalones, but creating this body of work that is distinct but still satisfies fans hungering for more

* * * *

Are you hungering for more CARRY ON? Then be sure to check out all of our great posts:

• "Keep Calm and Listen On: The Carry On Audiobook Experience" at The Reading Date
"5 Things to Know About Rainbow Rowell" at Teen Lit Rocks

The entire YA Diversity Book Club archives can now be found on Tumblr, along with information about our upcoming book selections.

If you would like to join us in reading diversely next month, pick up a copy of DELICATE MONSTERS by Stephanie Kuehn.

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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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