Thursday, November 27, 2014

Do you have any Thanksgiving Day traditions?



Sarah: As a kid, every Thanksgiving my family drove from Pittsburgh to my Gramma's house in the Marcellus countryside of upstate New York. We watched the Macy's parade on the small black and white TV, ate McIntosh apples with New York cheddar, and listened to the adults talk all day. My dad was never as alive with words as when he was at home with his Ma and Pa. He and my uncle would fire up the rusty Farmall tractor and I'd sit up top, let the vibrations tickle through my whole body, test out my voice. The day after Thanksgiving we'd drive over to Skaneatles and walk along the lake. My dad would huff and puff about the rich folk, but he never complained when we stopped at Doug's fish fry.

Kristan: Oh Sarah, your family memories are so sweet! And your answer was like a little story. ♥

My family's Thanksgiving traditions are a bit more generic. Last-minute invites to friends to join us for dinner. Scrambling to get all the dishes made. Slightly over-cooking the turkey. But that's OK, I prefer the ham anyway. ;P

Mostly what I love -- besides my mom's candied yams -- is the lively gathering of people. We talk, we laugh, we reminisce. It's so full of heart.

Ingrid: By the time I was nine years old there were eight people in our immediate family, so every day was pretty much a party. On Thanksgiving, our numbers grew ever larger with the addition of aunts, uncles and cousins... but somehow I remember those childhood Thanksgivings as quiet, peaceful days. Instead of racing around to get someone to basketball practice and someone else to a piano lesson, we all stayed home, watched the Macy's parade, and played football on the front lawn. Oh, and ate, of course.

Now that we live across the country and can't travel back east for every holiday, my husband, sons and I always try to do something outside on Thanksgiving--a turkey trot, skiing or hiking--before meeting up with friends for a big turkey dinner.

Stephanie: What I remember most from my childhood Thankgivings is waking up to the whole house smelling like cinnamon candles, eating "dinner" at like one in the afternoon, watching the parade on TV, and everyone taking unintended naps all over the house. Then we'd unpack all the Christmas boxes and put up the tree.

This year, though, I'm watching most of those traditions fade away. This is the first year that my brother and sister and I are all coupled-off with in-laws to divide the holidays between. It's also the first Thanksgiving without my mom, who passed away earlier this year. Now suddenly Thanksgiving has a bittersweetness that it never had before.

So here's to making new traditions and cherishing the memories of what was. We'd love to hear about your traditions, if you want to share them with us.
We'll be doing giveaways throughout December, so watch our twitter for opportunities to win books!
Friday, November 21, 2014


Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel This month's pick, TELL ME AGAIN HOW A CRUSH SHOULD FEEL by Sara Farizan, was probably the most light-hearted of the books that YA Diversity Book Club has read so far. As we all agreed, that was kind of a pleasant surprise. Here's more about the book:

High-school junior Leila has made it most of the way through Armstead Academy without having a crush on anyone, which is something of a relief. Her Persian heritage already makes her different from her classmates; if word got out that she liked girls, life would be twice as hard. But when a sophisticated, beautiful new girl, Saskia, shows up, Leila starts to take risks she never thought she would, especially when it looks as if the attraction between them is mutual. Struggling to sort out her growing feelings and Saskia's confusing signals, Leila confides in her old friend, Lisa, and grows closer to her fellow drama tech-crew members, especially Tomas, whose comments about his own sexuality are frank, funny, wise, and sometimes painful. Gradually, Leila begins to see that almost all her classmates are more complicated than they first appear to be, and many are keeping fascinating secrets of their own.

From the description, one would probably expect TELL ME AGAIN to be all about Leila coming to terms with her sexuality. And on the surface, I guess it is. That's what drives the plot.

But what I found even more compelling was the underlying theme of identity vs. appearance. Leila learns that she is not the only person who is different -- or who contains more -- on the inside than others would guess from the outside.

Leila isn't just a lesbian. She's also Persian. These are probably the two biggest checkboxes that make up her own sense of self. One of them -- her sexuality -- she spends a lot of time questioning, weighing, and worrying about. The other -- her ethnicity -- is simply part of her. It's ingrained. It colors her family life and her values and her experiences, but it isn't something that needs to be debated or announced. It just is.

7th Course: Tasting of Ice CreamsI loved that. I loved that this book was diverse on multiple levels. I loved the reminder that people aren't just one flavor. Most of us are not chocolate OR vanilla -- but rather chocolate AND vanilla AND mint chocolate chip AND cookies 'n' cream AND orange sherbet AND... You get the point.

My most prominent flavors are: writer, Taiwanese halfie, feminist, dog lover. What are yours?

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For more on TELL ME AGAIN HOW A CRUSH SHOULD FEEL, be sure to check out all the YA Diversity Club posts:

••• Our group discussion at the Reading Date. In addition to discussing sexuality and culture, we also explore the great cast of characters in Leila's story.

••• Q&A with Sara Farizan at Gone Pecan. The author reveals how TELL ME AGAIN was born in Hollywood, and how the book was influenced by her own experiences and upbringing.

••• Favorite LGBT Themed YA Novels at Teen Lit Rocks. Sandie shares her picks for the best queer stories in YA.

Next month we're taking a break from reading for the holidays, but we'll be doing a roundup of all our favorite diverse titles from 2014!


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

I went to Books by the Banks, a local book festival, this year. It was the first I've gone without any of the other WHYA girls. Sarah moved to England or some such nonsense, Ingrid is up a Rocky Mountain somewhere, and Kristan was off on some silly honeymoon or whatever. So I went with my (very) bearded boyfriend. One of the panels I went to featured Middle Grade authors Emma Carlson Berne, Andrea Cheng, Jasper Fford, and Alan Gratz.

In the interest of not writing a blog post that is forever long, I'm going to share just a few of the answers that I found amusing and inspring.

Why do you think adults read children’s books?

Alan: Immature adults?

[Everyone laughs]

Jasper: I’ll start. I don’t know! I write what amuses me, and I leave it up to the publishers who’s going to buy it or read it. The difference between my books for grownups and my books for children is not quite such a difference, because I kind of write for the child in the adult. I always figured that if you can enjoy the Muppet Show, you can enjoy my books. So it really doesn’t matter if it’s a grown up or if it’s a middle grade book.

Alan: I think one of the reasons that Middle grade is also appealing to adults is that they’re action packed. Kids don’t have the patience. I’ve picked up an adult book before and I’ve read 200 pages in, and my wife will say, “What do you think?” and I’m like, “Weeeell, I don’t know, the story hasn’t gotten going, and I’m not sure I like the characters, and…” No kid has ever said that. They’re not going to say, “I’m going to give it another hundred pages and see if it picks up.” If you don’t get them quickly, they’re not going to stay with you. In the same way, I think many of us as adults think, “I want a book that gets on with it.”

Jasper: We could also say that books for adults are actually a bit boring.

Did you know you wanted to be writers when you were kids? Can you tell us about an unusual or unexpected experience that impacted your career path?

Alan: I grew up in a very sports oriented family. My father was the high school football coach, and my uncle had played football for the University of Tennessee. My extended family expected me to grow up and be the star quarterback for the high school football team. But I was terrible, no matter what sport I tried, and I’m an absolute klutz. And my dad – I will love forever for this – he realized at a young age that I was not good at sports, and he said “You’ve really started to show some talent at writing. Why don’t you keep writing and not worry about playing sports." So many parents who are coaches are so ready to guide their children into the sports life, but my dad didn’t. That was a huge thing for me. I felt the pressure from the rest of my family to be an athlete, but my dad was always there saying, “No no no, do what it is that you’re good at, not what everyone else expects you to do.” That was how I became a writer.

Andrea: I was a storyteller before I was a story writer. I would tell a story, and my sister would say, “No no, it didn’t happen that way you’re making it up.” Then one day she got really frustrated and said, “The only way you can lie and it’s okay is if you write stories.”

Monday, November 17, 2014

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE THING ABOUT AUTUMN

Sarah: Pumpkin pie, goblins, bonfires, long nights, starling clouds, swishing leaves with my feet.

Ingrid: Shots of gold and orange in the trees... leaves crunching beneath my shoes... a crisp breeze that ripples the corn husks... the smokey smell of a bonfire... the anticipation of a new season, a fresh start.

Kristan: EVERYTHING!

But most of all: Not being hot anymore, and just how beautiful the world looks and sounds and smells.

Stephanie: I LOVE Autumn hikes. I love putting on warm sweaters, going to the park, and hearing the leaves crush under my feet, how they rain down all around you.

What is your favorite thing about Autumn?
Friday, November 14, 2014


A few weeks ago I picked up the ARC of SAY WHAT YOU WILL by Cammie McGovern.  

The premise sounded interesting—a roller-coaster friendship/love story between a girl with cerebral palsy and a boy with obsessive compulsive disorder. Also it sounded…important. I could tell it was the type of story that would teach me something. I wondered if it would be difficult at times to relate to the main characters: Amy, who has a brilliant mind but is trapped in a body that won’t cooperate, and Matthew, whose mental disorder is sabotaging his life while he remains in denial.

In fact, the characters were so relatable that I pulled a few late-nighters in order to continue reading. I really felt for these kids who needed each other so badly but didn’t always know how to communicate it. Their emotional growth was a beautiful thing to watch.

In addition to their unique challenges, Amy and Matthew confront issues that everyone can relate to… loneliness and the intricacy of making friends, then figuring out which friendships are sincere and which will crumble in the wind. Dealing with social pressure and expectations from teachers, parents and classmates. Worrying about first jobs, first dates, fitting in and the way people perceive you. Agonizing over the choices you make—or don’t make—and how it all affects your self-esteem and your future.

SAY WHAT YOU WILL can be categorized as a diversity book, offering a rare look inside the minds and emotions of people who are underrepresented and often misunderstood. But more than that, it’s a story about two people struggling to overcome their individual challenges while simply learning how to navigate Life.

I’m really glad I read this book, both because it enhanced my understanding of the differences those with disabilities must deal with on a regular basis, and because it reinforced how similar we all are inside. 

Has anyone else had a chance to read SAY WHAT YOU WILL? What did you think?



Thursday, November 6, 2014

ARE YOU PARTICIPATING IN NANOWRIMO?

Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month.
Stephanie: Not this year. Too busy. But I'm hoping the "everyone's writing" atmosphere will still rub off on me. There should be a National Oh My God Just Write Something Month. That's what I'm participating in.

Kristan: LOL! Yeah, I'm not participating either, but I love the energy.

I've tried NaNo a couple times in the past and never won. For me, the focus on word counts (and the late-night scrambles that deprive me of sleep!) really puts me in the wrong mindset for writing.

Sarah: NoNaNo. I haven't ever participated because it's just not my thing. Drafting and discovery is my favourite part of writing. I like to take my time and put off revising for as long as possible. :)

Ingrid: I actually toyed with the idea of participating this year because I've been revising for so long and I really miss drafting. Then I remembered how crazy-busy I am and decided to keep my sanity through the holidays. But I might create my own "NaNo" month later this winter and use it to finish my latest manuscript. I need some kind of deadline! 

What say you, readers? Any NaNoWritMo writers out there? How's it going?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The winner of our October commenter giveaway is Sara at the Page Sage. 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.
* * * * *
OK, everyone is still candy-drunk from Halloween -- it's not just us, right? Well, when we all manage to crawl out of our sugar-stupors, we will have these amazing-sounding books waiting for us.
A Thousand Pieces of You (Firebird, #1)
A THOUSAND PIECES OF YOU by Claudia Gray

The cover alone has us reaching for our wallets. But it's the premise that really seals the deal. A teenage girl tracking her parents' murderers through alternate universes? Heartbreaking, exciting, and thoroughly original. Definitely a roller coaster we want to ride.

Plus, who doesn't love the onion domes of Russia?

Mortal Heart (His Fair Assassin, #3)MORTAL HEART by Robin LaFevers

This is the third book in LaFevers' action-packed, romance-filled series about assassin nuns. Yes, you read that right: Killer ladies of the Lord. Don't even pretend you're not intrigued.

We read and quite enjoyed the first book, GRAVE MERCY, and we have heard only glowing things about its sequel, DARK TRIUMPH. So bring on the murderous nuns! You can never have too many.

The Walled CityTHE WALLED CITY by Ryan Graudin

Last but not least is this, we blogged about this one already, but it's worth mentioning again. Within these walls you'll find everything from grimy alleyways to luxurious houses on a hill, from love to loss, from ruthless brawls to selfless redemption.

Our advice: run fast, trust no one, and get this book before it's gone from all the shelves.

What November new releases are you looking forward to? Let us know in the comments!

If you need a list, GoodReads can be quite helpful.

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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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