Saturday, December 31, 2011
Rules. This post breaks a lot of them. It was supposed to be posted on Thursday -- it's now Saturday. It was supposed to be a top 10 -- it's a top 12. Actually more like top 16, because we were each supposed to pick our top 3 -- but we all had ties!

Oh but wait, with the overlaps, it turns out to be 10 after all... Well at least we did something right. :P

Anyway, without further ado, here are our favorite books of 2011:


Ingrid
  1. Daughter of Smoke and Bone - Deep sigh. Genius.
  2. (tie) If I Stay / Pegasus - I'm torn in two. They're so different but so amazing.
  3. Entwined - Love the family dynamics in this book, which is something I want more of in YA.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, #1) If I Stay (If I Stay, #1) Pegasus Entwined

Stephanie
  1. (tie) Daughter of Smoke and Bone / Pegasus - I loved everything about these books, especially the flying.
  2. Entwined - The Twelve Dancing Princesses was one of my favorite stories when I was little, and I was delighted to see it re-envisioned.
  3. Mockingjay - I was a bit late getting to this book, but I was blown away. I can't wait to see the films!
Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, #1) Pegasus Entwined Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3)

Kristan
  1. Daughter of Smoke and Bone - This book devastated me.
  2. Pegasus - Somehow Robin McKinley manages to make even her infodumps seem magical and interesting. And seriously, who wouldn't want to be bound to a pegasus?
  3. (tie) The Sky Is Everywhere / The Book Thief - Two completely different books, but both so very special. Lovely prose in particular.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, #1) Pegasus The Sky Is Everywhere The Book Thief

Sarah

All of my favorite picks have everything to do with character on top of good storytelling.
  1. (tie) Chime / Daughter of Smoke and Bone - Love how my imagination stretches to include the Boggy Mun and teeth = wishes.
  2. Fire - Read this for the first time this year, and I'm absolutely obsessed.
  3. Imaginary Girls - Even now, Ruby haunts me.
Chime Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, #1)  Fire (The Seven Kingdoms, #2) Imaginary Girls

So, um, it's probably pretty clear what our favorite book of the year is, collectively. Congratulations, Laini Taylor. Your writing picked us up on satin wings, flew us to the moon, and then let us freefall back to Earth. We may never recover (but oh boy what a ride).

What was your favorite read (or reads) of 2011? You can link to your post if you have one.

With that, we bid this year adieu. Have a fun and safe New Year's Eve -- we'll see you on the 2012 side! (And don't forget this is your last day to enter our Holly Jolly Giveaway.)
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Merry Christmas.

You are loved. :)

Here's some tweets we collected while the world turned ever so slowly toward longer days:


Spread the cheer...
It's only days until 2012 and whole new shiny year full of shiny new books. What's your most anticipated moment? (The Hunger Games movie!?!)

Friday, December 23, 2011
Hey friends, don't forget: There's just 1 week left to enter our Holly Jolly Giveaway. SHATTER ME, DASH & LILY'S BOOK OF DARES, or THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE could be yours!

...

"What Do You Think the Author Is Trying to Say?"

We've all been asked that question. In English class, usually. Perhaps as part of a group discussion, or maybe as an essay prompt on an exam. We're supposed to analyze the text, looking for symbolism and imagery. We're supposed to tease out the themes, the message.

But what if we don't want to tease it out? What if we want it served to us on a platter, like steak with a loaded baked potato on the side?

There's a spectrum, of course. From "I painted it gold and made it tap dance for you" to "buried so deep in the earth's core that not even Indiana Jones could dig it up." There's a lot of gray area in between those two extremes. So our question is: Where do you like your literary themes to fall?

Two Examples

In THIRTEEN REASONS WHY by Jay Asher, a teenager named Clay listens to the confessional tapes of a classmate, Hannah, who committed suicide. On these tapes, she explains why she took her life. Keyword: EXPLAINS. There's nothing subtle about this book. Hannah is giving people a roadmap to her actions. She wants them to know what they did wrong, why it hurt her, and how it contributed to her suicide.

This book has been a HUGE beacon of light for many readers. People on both sides of the equation have had their eyes opened, their lives changed. People who have been hurt, bullied, ignored, or broken. People who have done the hurting, bullying, ignoring, or breaking. But also, people who may not have any awareness of these problems, or who don't fully realize the effects of their actions. People who don't realize that inaction is as much of a choice as anything else.

While Asher's message felt too obvious to us at times, we have to admit, the story has had an amazing and important impact, and we applaud that wholeheartedly.

On the other end of the spectrum is THE THINGS A BROTHER KNOWS by Dana Reinhardt. Levi has been anticipating the return of his military hero brother, Boaz, but when Boaz finally gets home from his tour of duty, he's different. Quiet. Withdrawn. Secretive. When Boaz takes off again, on some mysterious pilgrimage by foot, Levi is determined to follow his brother. To understand him. No matter what dark places their journey might lead to.

Readers could debate the themes of this story for hours. Brotherly love? The effects of war? Rebelling against social and cultural expectations? What the author is trying to say isn't perfectly obvious. Instead, she tells a story filled with real characters and genuine emotion. She lets them guide readers to their own conclusions. That can be very, very powerful too.
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Do you find yourself singing Selena Gomez's cute song "I love you like a love song (repeatpeatpeatpeatpeat)" ??? Well, it's not just us:

We Heart YA has the best followers ever! (p.s.Ash_Ash...starting a new book is always a good idea):


Let's pause for a moment of clarity:


And now some silly:



Three cheers for authors with wisdom to share:



This is what happens when you are always writing creepy stories (about IMAGINARY GIRLS):



Yeah, we've been there:



It's the most wonderful time of the year:



(White Stripes) said it once before, but it bears repeating, now:



Sunday, December 18, 2011
If you haven't seen this new Tumblr, you need to! Ryan Gosling Reads YA. It's a spoof of another Ryan Gosling meme, but because it relates to YA, it's like 10 billion times better than the original. (In our humble opinion.) Here are a few of our favorites:






Right back at ya, Gosling. Right back at ya...
Thursday, December 15, 2011
A few months ago, Steph wrote about Endings, and how they can make or break a novel. Today let’s talk Beginnings. 

Some novels seem to hook readers from the first sentence while others take a little longer to settle into. There are readers who will overlook a slower beginning if they are intrigued enough by the concept, but this isn’t the case for everyone. Like everything in fiction, beginnings are subjective. 

New writers hear all the taboos: "Don’t start your book with the protagonist waking up, or with someone dying. Don’t directly address the reader, don’t describe the weather, and don’t begin your novel with a dream." All sound advice. But what about the oft-cited tip: "Start your book with action, action, action"? Is that really what readers want every time?

Action from the get-go can be great. Especially if it's not overblown. And if the writer has made you care enough about the protagonist. But there is something to be said for getting to know the characters before they start battling dragons. My favorite beginnings are full of voice -- they explain who the main character is and what he/she cares about, and they hint at the action to come.

One of the best things about fiction is its variety. Amy Reed begins BEAUTIFUL with the protagonist describing a slice of pizza while we hear her internal thoughts about her new school. Sarah Ockler’s TWENTY BOY SUMMER begins with a short first chapter that shows the narrator survived something that forever changed her life. And Sarah Dessen’s JUST LISTEN hooks you by explaining that the protagonist filmed a TV commercial months ago that is now being aired all over town -- when all she wants is to hide. These three beginnings hooked me right away. Though they are all crafted differently, they're equally compelling.


What are some of your favorite beginnings? How important is that first page, or paragraph? Know of any fabulous books that successfully broke the "rules"?

Happy Reading, 
IP
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Tweet Tweet! I can't believe it's Tuesday again. No, it's not just an ordinary day, my friends. It's time for a twitter roundup of our favorite tweets from the past week. And, as always, writers and readers have the brightest and the best things to say. Without further ado...

Best Hashtag of the Week: #2012debuts (we're only three weeks away from the new year full of bright and shiny new books! huzzah!)


What would life be like without Steve Martin and Nathan Fillion? Dull, dull I say!


More good writerly advice:


We feel ya:


Oh, Literary Types, you do make us laugh:


Yes. Must read this book.


What every writer (and reader) wants for Christmas? Books, silly!


Along the same lines, this post from Kristan is kinda spot on. And don't forget about our Holly Jolly Giveaway.
Thursday, December 8, 2011

I loved the responses to On Beauty (Part 1), so I thought I would highlight some of the comments while discussing MATCHED, a book that deals with the subject of beauty in a unique way.










Ally Condie created a world where no one has access to make-up or nice clothes, where beauty has become almost irrelevant. On the outside, Cassia is ordinary, and she’s accepted that way. It’s in exploring the ways she is different and in finding the bravery to embrace those differences that Cassia becomes extraordinary.







As I read MATCHED, Cassia became more beautiful in my imagination, but it wasn’t any of the physical description that gave me this impression. Her beauty comes across in the way she perceives things, in her growing appreciation of the beauty around her. She treasures stolen bits of poetry and an old compact as rare and precious. That is what sets her apart in this world. That, to me, makes her rare and precious.









The idea that girls have to change who they are to be beautiful is everywhere. But in real life, I’ve always found the opposite to be true. The most beautiful people are those who have found who they are and embrace what makes them different. 






* * *

Share your views on beauty in YA literature.

Steph

Note: Don't forget to enter our Holly Jolly Giveaway. SHATTER ME, DASH & LILY'S BOOK OF DARES, or THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE could be yours!
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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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