Sunday, April 12, 2015


Link: "One Thing Leads to Another: An Interview with Laura Ruby" at YALSA's The Hub

A few highlights:

1. On being angry and getting perspective
I should have been humiliated by it all—by the drama at my school, by the forced psych evaluation, by the refusal of all these idiot adults to believe I’d written what I’d written, to believe me. Except I wasn’t humiliated, I was furious. And not furious in a self-conscious or inchoate way, not furious just for the sake of it. I was purely, righteously angry. I thought, here I am telling the truth and I’m being punished for it.

But after this happened, it was much harder to be angry at stupid little things, much harder to be humiliated by the need to ask a question. Some of the debilitating self-consciousness began to fall away.

2. On how we label girls, and a teacher who believed in her
For my first paper, I took a risk and wrote about how my mother used to call me “the smart one” and my sister “the pretty one,” with “pretty” being the much bigger compliment. I wrote about how limiting and hurtful these labels were, how the culture puts so big a premium on the way a girl looks rather than on how she thinks or what she does. I was walking out of class one day and the teacher ran after me. She held the paper up so I could see the A+ and said, “You will write a book one day.”

3. On trying even in the face of intimidation or uncertainty
Once, I was whining to my dear friend Anne Ursu about feeling incapable of writing a particular story, feeling like I wasn’t talented enough to do it. And she told me that it was good I felt that way, that you should always be working at the very limits of your abilities. What’s the point, she said, of writing a book you already know how to write?

But I think this advice applies to almost everything. It’s just a more elegant and specific way of saying, “Try. Just try.”

Wednesday, April 8, 2015


Every once in a while, we'll be discussing a book we all enjoyed. Ingrid, who will have just finished reading it, will say "Oh, I need to own this book." And then Kristan will offer Ingrid her copy, saying that she'll never read it again anyway. Kristan's always running out of space to store books, so she's constantly in the process of bringing in new books and giving away old ones.

For me, saying I'll never read a book again and actually giving it away means I probably didn't enjoy it very much. When I like a book, I automatically plan to reread it, without even thinking about it. I may not ever actually get around to it... but the plan is there in the back of my mind. I guess I just always want to have the possibility of experiencing the story again.

I also find that I'm constantly returning to the last great book that really transported me, wishing to find the same magic it had the first time around, until I find the next book that captures me. It's always bittersweet rereading a book that you've lost yourself in before, because your first experience with it is something you can't have again. If only you could bottle that feeling.

The other reason I return to books is to scour them for inspiration. Every time I read a story again, I learn more about it and how it was put together. I know Sarah does the same thing. Every time she comes to a standstill in her writing, she rereads one of the books that gave her the idea in the first place. She uses it to recalibrate.

I feel like you could learn a lot about me by the books I've reread in the past year. The books I've reread lately are:

• The Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy
• The How to Train Your Dragon series
• Shadow and Bone
• Alice in Wonderland
• Pegasus

Do you reread books? What have you been rereading lately?

Sunday, April 5, 2015


Link: The Importance of Girls’ Stories: SLJ Chats with Nova Ren Suma About “The Walls Around Us”

A few highlights:

1. On "likable" characters
I don’t understand wanting to read a book to like the characters. I’m not reading for someone I want to be friends with. I’m reading for someone who’s interesting and fascinating, and that’s often a difficult character—a “bad character.”

It’s so much more fascinating to me to unpack someone who is not necessarily easy but someone who has many layers and is complex—that feels more authentic to me.

2. On writing about female relationships
For me it’s so important to tell stories about young women and to write books told from their perspectives—all kinds of girls. I think again to my own experiences as a teenager. It wasn’t about finding true love. When I was in high school, my focus was on my really close relationships with friends. There was terrible drama, breakups, and the loss of friendships and how devastating that was. It was intense. In my writing about young women, so much of it is about our disconnection and connection to one another. Because if I’m writing about authentic lives and teenage girls, so much of their lives is about relationships between sisters, friendships, and frenemies. In that time [teen years], those were the closest relationships I had with other women. It’s hard to have that kind of friendship when you’re older. It’s such a beautiful intensity.

3. On sexism in YA
I think the reason that it’s such a difficult thing to hear is that this is an industry made up of women. Librarians, authors, bloggers, editors, we’re all women. How could it exist if we’re all women? We have to take a hard look at ourselves and ask difficult questions. Why do we elevate male authors in YA publishing? Why can a male author write from a female perspective and it can be taken more seriously and not the other way around? Why are there more men winning more awards in such a female-dominated format? Why are there more men on panels?

This is a conversation that has been going on behind closed doors for a long time, and it’s finally coming out. I think it’s so important that we’re having it right now. There are so many smart people being brave and putting themselves out there, but there are people who just don’t want to hear it. Our core audience is teens. What are we saying to young girls about their importance and significance? What are we leaving behind for the next generation?
Friday, March 27, 2015

Black Dove, White RavenTo this day, CODE NAME VERITY can bring me to tears. All I have to do is think about that scene on the bridge. Kiss me, Hardy. Kiss me quick! (Seriously, I just teared up typing that.) So when the YA Diversity Book Club was picking what to read for March, Elizabeth Wein's latest, BLACK DOVE WHITE RAVEN, instantly got my vote. Here's a bit about the book, and below that, our group discussion about Wein's incredible novel, including what we learned, what we loved, and why it reminded us a bit of FANGIRL and JELLICOE ROAD.

Emilia and Teo's lives changed in a fiery, terrifying instant when a bird strike brought down the plane their stunt pilot mothers were flying. Teo's mother died immediately, but Em's survived, determined to raise Teo according to his late mother's wishes-in a place where he won't be discriminated against because of the color of his skin. But in 1930s America, a white woman raising a black adoptive son alongside a white daughter is too often seen as a threat. 

Seeking a home where her children won't be held back by ethnicity or gender, Rhoda brings Em and Teo to Ethiopia, and all three fall in love with the beautiful, peaceful country. But that peace is shattered by the threat of war with Italy, and teenage Em and Teo are drawn into the conflict. Will their devotion to their country, its culture and people, and each other be their downfall or their salvation?


* * * * *

The Reading Date: I thought BDWR was such a rich story. A little slow to start off with but a good payoff.
We Heart YA: ditto what Lucy said. i did read Code Name Verity though, so i kind of knew to expect that
Gone Pecan: I think it not being set up in chapters slowed it down even more for me
Teen Lit Rocks: I don't know that I found it "slow," just it's obviously a lot of background. I really connected to the prose and the early stories about Delia and "Mama"
The Reading Date: Yes Sandie I loved the mom's story and wish that was the focus.
Teen Lit Rocks: In fact, for a tiny moment I thought maybe the moms were more than best friends, but then I realized it was that they shared this soul mate bond that neither woman had with a partner
We Heart YA: haha i wondered the same thing, sandie. and i think it's OK for that to be a possibility or a question mark.
The Reading Date: The thought crossed my mind too.
Gone Pecan: I'm sure it crossed all of our minds, lol
The Reading Date: Well we search for the diverse themes in our reading
We Heart YA: that said, i kind of liked papa menotti
Teen Lit Rocks: I liked him too; he obviously needed her more than she needed him
Gone Pecan: I loved her family and how they were just so open and accepting.
The Reading Date: Yes the family theme was wonderful. Rich characterization.
Teen Lit Rocks: I love strong sibling relationships, and this one was such a heartbreakingly close character study of how siblings really know you better than anyone else at a certain moment in your life -- especially if you move around a lot
The Reading Date: They didn't fight like siblings though
We Heart YA: well, and i loved that they were siblings with no blood between them. i have that kind of a sister in my life
Teen Lit Rocks: Yes -- but they were raised like siblings so not really like best friends you consider a sibling I don't mean you -- just in general -- they had such a unique relationship because of their moms Which of course is why it seemed like two moms and their kids. because it was! They didn't differentiate between your kid and my kid
We Heart YA: haha which got them in trouble sometimes! like with the passport junk
Teen Lit Rocks: oh that was awful. How many of you were familiar with Ethiopian history? Was this new territory for you?
Gone Pecan: completely new to me
We Heart YA: entirely new for me, and i loved learning so much!
The Reading Date: This was new for me and it seemed like the author had completely done her homework.
Teen Lit Rocks: I knew about Haile Selassie but mostly because of how Rastafarians idolize him. I also knew about the Italian Abyssinian war, but I didn't know specifics
Gone Pecan: I feel like Ms Wein would outsmart me with a sneeze
We Heart YA: LOL oh Kristina I so want to tweet that
Teen Lit Rocks: OT: My neighbors are Ethiopian and they have a large painting of Haile Selassie in their home.
The Reading Date: On that note, do you think teenagers are reading these books or do they have more appeal to adults?
We Heart YA: there was a LOT of information in here, but it was presented interestingly. whereas i've read other books that had tons of historical research, and it felt like the story took a backseat to showing off the information (which i hated)
Gone Pecan: I felt a lot of the info going over my head at times and had to reread it.
We Heart YA: i have to admit, i don't have a good sense of whether or not teens are reading wein's stories... i THINK code name verity was popular with teens? but wein's stories are certainly more demanding of a reader than other YA books we've read (which i appreciate, personally) (i don't ALWAYS want to work, but i think it's good to stretch your brain sometimes!)
The Reading Date: It seems like you have to have a real sophisticated interest in history or aviation
Teen Lit Rocks: I don't know -- the adventure and the imaginative stories seem universal. I guess for me, this is the kind of book that proves YA isn't all Stephanie Perkins kissing books (even though I love them!)
We Heart YA: oh, i wanted to talk about the stories that em and teo wrote bc it reminded me of the fanfic sections of rainbow rowell's FANGIRL
The Reading Date: Yes Kristan I did appreciate that I was learning something new here. And I love the FANGIRL comparison! I didn't think of that. 
We Heart YA: so, with fangirl, as much as i LOVED that book, i didn't really care about the simon snow fanfic sections. whereas here, i think bc the stories were more directly correlated, i found myself (slightly) more engaged with those sections (though they still didn't feel *essential*)
Teen Lit Rocks: I loved how they were related to what was going on, and they made me feel more connected to the kids. 
We Heart YA: yeah the stories really reinforced how much em and teo connected to that daydream world together
The Reading Date: This is a sophisticated, experimental read yes, but I did get a little lost in the details and what/when we were. 
We Heart YA: i was kind of iffy on the whole found documents / flight log / school essay format, actually. it totally works, but i think a straightforward narrative would have worked too
Gone Pecan: I'm not a fan of "found" documents
Teen Lit Rocks: But there are plenty of books that use journals, letters, found objects, etc. Like Why We Broke Up, for example Or Jellicoe Road with the story within the story
We Heart YA: i did sometimes too, lucy. for the most part in fantasy or historical novels, i feel like having a perfect understanding of the geography or the timeline usually isn't essential (at least to me) so i dont sweat it lol funny you mention jellicoe, bc that's one where i REALLY wanted the story to be told in a straightforward way (i did end up loving that book though)
The Reading Date: I haven't read either of those but I'm generally okay with a journal format. I think though they work better for me in contemporary stories.
Gone Pecan: Finally! someone else who hasn't read JR!!
We Heart YA: (just like i still really like this one)
Teen Lit Rocks: Oh good I was worried I was the only one who actually liked this book 
We Heart YA: oh no, i really, really like this book! there is SO MUCH going on, and it's a beautiful slow build around such amazing interesting characters. i'm just nitpicking structure stuff, haha. the content is fantastic
The Reading Date: No, no I have a lot of respect for what Wein did here. It just was outside of my comfort zone.
Teen Lit Rocks: And for once, I didn't care a stitch that there was zero romance. Usually I miss romance, but not in this book
The Reading Date: I didn't miss the romance either Sandie, not at all.
Gone Pecan: I have issues with the slow building. But that is with any book that isn't fantasy
Teen Lit Rocks: Totally understood, Lucy and Kiki. That's interesting, because I think fantasy books have slow worldbuilding too! There's just more action
We Heart YA: to me, this book (and maybe all of wein's work?) is like a nice, inventive meal that i go out to every once in a while and want to enjoy in a leisurely fashion. versus when i'm just hungry and need to eat something quick and tasty
Teen Lit Rocks: YES -- like a special occasion dinner that you remember but you can't afford to do all the time
Gone Pecan: yes.  Def not a quick read but a good one!
We Heart YA: in terms of diversity, there was like everything under the sun
Teen Lit Rocks: Religion, race, culture, geography
We Heart YA: religion, culture, race, socioeconomic status...
Teen Lit Rocks: hahahah
The Reading Date: Jinx!
Teen Lit Rocks: buy me a Coke!
We Heart YA: deal
Teen Lit Rocks: :)
We Heart YA: i really, really enjoyed it. like, there was so much to engage with. and omg the slavery revelation was heartbreaking...
Teen Lit Rocks: Like Em, I was mad at Delia too, when I discovered the truth about Teo. Do all of you have siblings?
Gone Pecan: I do
The Reading Date: I have a sister
We Heart YA: er, i'm an only child, but i have my sister-person (mentioned earlier) as well as 2 half-sisters (much older, i didn't grow up with them)
Teen Lit Rocks: I'm much younger than my siblings, but we are orphaned now, and we need each other in a way that's hard to explain to people with living parents and in a way, these kids were on their own too -- even though Em's parents are alive
Gone Pecan: I've noticed more how we've "tightened" up our relationships between myself and my siblings since my mom has been sick. I feel like I'm kind of raising my younger niece with my sister at times since we are together so much.
Teen Lit Rocks: K-- yes, you start to see how only you know what it's like to have her for a mom, and you need each other to get through it...
The Reading Date: Yup when my sister and I lost our mom our relationship evolved that way too.
We Heart YA: there are a lot of great lines in here about em/teo realizing that adults are fallible, that they are human and can't fix/save everything, and that teens have to take care of themselves sometimes too
Teen Lit Rocks: Yes, and his final letter to Mama, I cried.
The Reading Date: That was touching Sandie.
Teen Lit Rocks: Her Author's Note is amazing. I could see this being taught in high school.
The Reading Date: That's what I was thinking too, that it could be a resource for history classes.
We Heart YA: oh for sure. more so than cnv even. it really brings life to a lot of historical issues from that time. the history/origins/evolution of slavery, the colonization of africa, the start of world war 2, the use of poison gas (evolution of warfare), how women have been treated both historically and culturally
The Reading Date: Wein seems really passionate about history, friendship and aviation and that really comes across in her books. It really reinforces and makes the history come alive.
Teen Lit Rocks: I'm so glad we had an opportunity to read this, because also, she is not one of those 27-year-old YA authors.
The Reading Date: She does have a distinct, refreshing pov.
Gone Pecan: Yes!  She is older.  Win for the older ladies!
Teen Lit Rocks: I sometimes feel like YA authors are all expected to be right out of college, but Wein is 50
We Heart YA: i think you can tell her stories are richer and more mature than most (but not all!) young YA writers'
The Reading Date: There's so much to unpack in this novel I can see myself revisiting it sometime.
We Heart YA: ditto, lucy. i know i want to go back to CNV someday too, for the same reason
Teen Lit Rocks: I also was intrigued by Rhoda's moral ambiguity about the photos -- until the end. She was a true Quaker -- trying to stay out of the confrontation. And Quakers were early abolitionists, so it made sense to me that Wein made Rhoda come from a family of Friends
We Heart YA: hm, funny, i always felt like she struggled to fit into her quaker roots. like, it was part of her, the way it would be if you grew up with it, but that she was a little too fiery to really fully fit
Teen Lit Rocks: Yes, she did, but it was still there. Just like with Aysel
We Heart YA: Rhoda was biased in favor of ethiopia too
Teen Lit Rocks: Right of course, once she understands the scopes, she knows which side she is on because she can't be neutral when her son's life is at stake. But I thought the Quaker background made the way her parents embraced Teo believable
We Heart YA: *nods* brief though their appearances were, i liked em's grandparents
Teen Lit Rocks: Yes me too. Even the supporting characters felt fully fleshed out to me. That's rare in a book where so many characters are just tropes
We Heart YA: yes! omg like horatio augustus, or mateos,  or the other italian captain (not em's father). fully characterized in such a short space. hehe his "stinkbug" glasses
Teen Lit Rocks: Even the Emperor!
The Reading Date: Wein's definitely got strong writing chops. I bet you want to dive into her other books now, Sandie
Teen Lit Rocks: If I didn't have to read a bunch of other books for work, yes! I think this is an excellent example of a writer thoroughly researching outside of her experience for a book.
The Reading Date: Definitely. It's not my typical read and I enjoyed learning something new.

Honestly BDWR was so rich with material that we could have talked about a dozen other facets if we'd had the time. Have you read it? What did you think?

* * * * *

For more on BLACK DOVE WHITE RAVEN, be sure to check out all of our features:

• Lucy at The Reading Date has a Q&A with Elizbaeth Wein, along with a BDWR giveaway!
• Kristina at Gone Pecan has suggestions for other great books to read if you liked BDWR
• Sandie at Teen Lit Rocks is talking about what we learned from BDWR

Next month we're reading AN EMBER IN THE ASHES by Sabaa Tahir. Please feel free to join us! You can also visit the full archive of YADBC posts and #YADiversityBookClub tweets.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Back in the early days of our blog, we posted about the importance of the first lines of a book. They serve a pretty major purpose, after all: to intrigue, draw you into the world, and (hopefully) hook you with their brilliance and lyricism.

But what about those famous -- or just really awesome -- last words? The ones that stay with you for hours, or even weeks following the end of the story. The ones that give you the flutters in your belly. Like Henry David Thoreau's from Walden: "The sun is but a morning star." Or the way Dickens ended A Tale of Two Cities: "It is a far, far better thing that I do than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known."

In the spirit of honoring all authors and all the wonderful last lines out there, I've put together a fun little quiz. I'll provide the last line and you provide the name of the book/author. (Hint: Most of these are YA books, but not all!)

List as many answers as you know (without googling them) in the comments section and you'll be entered to win your choice of one of the following two books: 

HOUSE OF IVY AND SORROW by Natalie Whipple 
 
THE WAY WE BARED OUR SOULS by Willa Strayhorn 





As Jeff Probst would say, "Worth playing for?" Okay, let's get to it...

1. "Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody."

2. "All was well." 

3. "I squared my shoulders and walked forward to meet my fate, with my destiny solidly at my side."

4. "I wasn't sure what I could give, not just yet. But I knew when I told her about the comet, years from now, I would know. And I would lean close to her ear, saying the words no one else could hear, explaining it all. The language of solace, and comets, and the girls we all become, in the end."

5. "Isn't it pretty to think so?"

6. "Because love, it never dies, it never goes away, it never fades, so long as you hang onto it. Love can make you immortal." 

7. A last note from your narrator: "I am haunted by humans"

That's it ~ have fun!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

In February, I returned to my mom's home country of Taiwan for the first time in over a decade. It was a great trip, and I'll be blogging more about the food, the sights, and my family over on my own website. But here, I just want to talk about the flights. Why the flights?

Because YA.

Getting to Taiwan required 3 separate flights, altogether totaling (with layovers) about 36 hours of travel. And it was the same coming back. That's... a lot of time. Fortunately, transoceanic planes are now usually equipped with personal entertainment centers. So while my neck, back, and butt still had to suffer through the long ride on those uncomfortable seats, at least my mind was pleasantly occupied.

The Fault in Our Stars

Confession: This movie was just so-so for me.

(Please don't hurt me! I loved the book!)

Don't get me wrong: I still cried. A lot. And I think there were great aspects. Shailene was excellent as Hazel, as was Laura Dern as her mother. It was beautifully filmed. It captured the spirit of the story.

But I think certain things -- like Hazel's internal monologues, and Augustus's external ones -- worked better in print than on screen.

Still, I'm glad I finally saw it. Even more than that, I'm glad the movie will bring so many new readers to the book.

How to Train Your Dragon 2

I LOVED How to Train Your Dragon, so of course I was going to love seeing more of Hiccup and Toothless. And I did!

My only disappointment was that this sequel seemed to cover much of the same territory as the first movie. Hiccup trying to accept himself. The village (and especially his father) doubting him and trying to wrangle him into a more familiar role.

Nevertheless, it was a fun frolic through Nordic-inspired waters. With dragons! So many dragons! All sizes, all colors, all kinds of powers! I want one.

Maleficent

This was an unexpected delight. 

(Well, sort of unexpected. Stephanie had seen it already and said it was really good.)

First of all, who doesn't love a good origin story? Second, who doesn't love a good twist? Maleficent is both. It's the story of how a woman became a villain -- and it makes you question whether or not she really is one.

I also adored the fact that this was not a love story. Not a romantic love story, anyway. Neither Maleficent nor Princess Aurora end up with a prince. But they still get their Happily Ever Afters.

Angelina Jolie is excellent, and I also loved Sam Riley as Diaval, Maleficent's shapeshifting henchman. 

Boxtrolls

This was a beautifully animated, quirky, but slightly uneven story about a boy and the endearingly strange underground creatures that raised him.

Let me get the bad out of the way first: the pacing was off at times -- i.e., boring -- and the villain was goofy beyond belief. (In fairness, Sarah has seen this too, and she loved the villain's obsession with, and grotesque allergy to, cheese.)

But the good was great. I adored the main characters, especially the protagonist Eggs and his surrogate father Fish. Visually the movie is just stunning. And the themes of identity, family, and standing up for oneself were all very poignant.

Believe it or not, this isn't even half of what I watched on all those flights. But it's the YA-relevant stuff. Have you seen any of these movies? What did you think?

Book Covers

One of my favorite things to do in foreign countries is go to a local bookstore and browse the shelves. Granted, I can't read most of what I see, but it's still fun. To see the cover designs and trends. To see what's popular.

Here's what I saw in Taipei. What series and titles can you spot?



1st photo: The Selection series by Kiera Cass. The Devil Wears Prada. The Book Thief.
2nd photo: The Hunger Games. Allegiant. Gone Girl. The Fault in Our Stars.
3rd photo: Eleanor & Park. Bonus: My sparkly gold flats.

Sailor Moon

Last but not least, I saw one of my childhood idols. How could I resist taking a photo with her?


Friday, February 27, 2015

Jasmine's launch party 002

A couple weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending the launch party for Jasmine Warga's debut novel MY HEART AND OTHER BLACK HOLES. It was held at a local Barnes & Noble that Jasmine frequented as a teen herself. Throughout the evening, the crowd kept growing and growing, filling the room with family, friends, and fans. The event coordinator later revealed that this was their largest turnout ever!

Jasmine's launch party 003
Jasmine (left) speaking with a young fan who approached her before the event.
Jasmine's launch party 004
Me (left), Jasmine, and fellow Cincinnati author Kate Hattemer.
Other writer-friends in attendance included Emery Lord, Becky Albertalli, and Adam Silvera.
Jasmine's launch party 006 Jasmine's launch party 005
The growing crowd. This is maybe 1/2 to 2/3 of its final size? It was standing room only!

With a book as thoughtful and heartfelt as MHAOBH, it's no surprise that people were lining up to listen to what Jasmine had to say. Here are a few highlights from her brief talk and the Q&A session afterward:

Jasmine's launch party 008• Jasmine didn't specifically decide to write a Young Adult story. She just followed the voice of the protagonist that came into her head, who happened to be 16. There is also an immediacy of emotion when you're a teenager, which Jasmine enjoys and thought would work well for the story she needed to tell.

• Jasmine used humor to make the sad/hard things in her story more accessible to readers. She herself has always been drawn to black comedy. Furthermore: "When I was a teen, I read really really dark stuff -- so this seems light compared to that!"

• One audience member asked, "Did you ever want to write [Aysel] out of being suicidal?" Jasmine considered this for a moment, then responded that because of her affection for Aysel, of course she wanted to rescue and protect her protagonist. But even stronger than that feeling was Jasmine's resolve to portray Aysel authentically, which meant letting her stumble and suffer. Jasmine added, "As a society we really stigmatize depression -- and [we have] this fear that if we talk about depression, we're going to make it contagious." Part of her motivation with MHAOBH was to debunk that myth and foster that important conversation.

• In terms of her working style, Jasmine prefers not to plot because she writes to discover, and she uses the sense of mystery to carry her through the process. She also likes to jot story notes on her phone. When asked if she was working on a second book, she said yes and added, "If anyone is passing this on to my agent or editor, it's going really well!"

• Jasmine's dad really wanted her to be a doctor. "But I think this turned out all right," she joked.

• Even though she followed her own heart instead of her father's, Jasmine did worry that her dream of being an author was "too big." She credits her husband for having faith and encouraging her even when she wavered and considered doing something more stable.

I have many other notes from the night, but I think you get the gist. Jasmine was the perfect combination of funny and insightful -- just like her book.

Interestingly, the most obvious element of diversity -- Aysel's Turkish heritage -- was not a focal point of the conversation. As we discussed in our YA Diversity Book Club chat, that's actually a good thing in this case, because it signals how organic that element was to the character and story. Race doesn't stick out -- and doesn't need to -- here. It just is.

For more on MY HEART AND OTHER BLACK HOLES, be sure to check out all of our features:

The group's discussion of MHAOBH at Teen Lit Rocks
The Q&A with Jasmine Warga at Gone Pecan
"I Will Follow You into the Dark: Mental Illness in YA" at the Reading Date

PS: Guess who sold out this entire stack of books?

Jasmine's launch party 001

Jasmine's launch party 012

Do you have a post about MY HEART AND OTHER BLACK HOLES? Link up here!


Next month we're reading BLACK DOVE WHITE RAVEN by Elizabeth Wein. Please feel free to join us! You can also see the full archive of YADBC posts and our #YADiversityBookClub tweets.

Sunday, February 22, 2015
Once upon a time, I was a student of English Literature. And in my studies (and even before that) I read and analysed good examples of literary theory and device. The purpose was not to limit the texts that I was exposed to, but to see what has been done in the past and then to relate to what is considered good practice in modern literature. It was a foundation of critique.

Some of these texts were universally hated*, even though they were necessary for study. I don't love ANIMAL FARM, for instance, but it is a good example of allegory. Similarly, I don't know many people who re-read HEART OF DARKNESS for fun, you know? But there's some reason we study it. I can't remember. That's how much that book has impacted my cognitive life. It's created a giant BLANK in my memory.

However, what has fascinated me more than the texts that people hate to read (and study) are those that are universally loved*. Shakespeare, Milton, Atwood, Morrison, King, Tolkien, Dahl, Martin, Rowling...Rowell.

During the breaks in lectures on William Blake (a favourite*), my fellow students would be murmuring about Bridget Jones or gasp Harry Potter. I was serious, back then. I was building a foundation of critique. I wouldn't be caught dead with romance or a children's book. And yet...

Popularity is captivating. Compelling. We wants it.

I read them in secret.

So whether my professors liked it or not, Popular Fiction went into the mortar. I would argue that it made my foundations stronger. Because while we need books that are good examples, that nourish our thinking minds, we need books that elicit emotion (no matter how base), help us escape, show us paths that aren't always apparent. To entertain. To illuminate with flights of fancy within the safety of a construct.

More and more these days, I feel that literature is in need of some "levellers." Forget award winners, bestsellers and classics and give me a book that: speaks to our times, our experience, a book that entertains, is weird, unprecedented, absolutely obvious, makes me think and see the world differently.

I wish this for writers.

Be brave.

Forget the lists. Forget the awards. Forget popularity. Tell us a story. Your best story. And you will be read.





*up for debate, obvs.
Thursday, February 12, 2015


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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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