Thursday, December 25, 2014

Every year, I ask the We Heart YA girls to send me their TWO or THREE favorite reads of the year. Every year, they ignore me and send as many as they want. Since I'm a rule-follower, I'll go first...

Kristan's picks:

We Were Liars Pointe Dreams of Gods & Monsters (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #3) 

WE WERE LIARS by E. Lockhart - This book haunts me. There's just something in its vibe. A contemporary story that feels out of time, with the fairytale-esque repetitions of Cadence's thoughts about her family. And of course there's the devastating twist... (We're still lying about the ending, right?) This book is very love-it-or-hate-it, and I fall firmly on the love-it side.

POINTE by Brandy Colbert - Ballet in the snow, shared cigarettes, secret rendezvous, Chicago, and a ripped-from-the-headlines idea infused with all the heart and soul an author can offer. Even though not a lot happens, relative to other YA blockbusters on the shelves, I thought POINTE was a really ambitious story. I guess it kind of haunts me too.

DREAMS OF GODS AND MONSTERS by Laini Taylor - In a word: EPIC. (Also: AMAZEBALLS.) Everything about this finale worked for me. The writing. The characters (both old and new). The plot twists. The interplay between fantasy and reality worlds. The fervent dreams and belief in hope, and the ultimate triumph of good over evil. (I cried. A lot.)

Sarah's picks:

The Weight of Water Half Bad (The Half Bad Trilogy, #1) Ruin and Rising (The Grisha, #3) Seraphina (Seraphina, #1) 

THE WEIGHT OF WATER by Sarah Crossan
I love every
Of this novel-in-verse.

DREAMS OF GODS AND MONSTERS by Laini Taylor - I am devastated that this story is over. But everything about this final novel in the trilogy was satisfying (see Kristan's comments). It is, quite simply, masterful.

HALF BAD by Sally Green - tied with RUIN & RISING by Leigh Bardugo - I always need a bit of smart fantasy and adventure taking up space in my imagination and HALF BAD is, so far, up to the task. But Alina Starkov! How I will miss your world.

I'm also adding SERAPHINA by Rachel Hartman, which is unlike any fantasy I have read lately. It is richly complex and just utterly brilliant. I'm struggling to put my thoughts into words with this book, which is indicative, if you know me, of a great read.

Ingrid's picks:

The Book Thief Stolen: A Letter to My Captor We Were Liars 

THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak - Powerful is the best word to describe this book. It will be one of my favorites for life, not just for 2014. The gorgeous prose, the tragic plot, the perseverance of the characters, and the heroic acts of kindness that emerge from an impossible, war-torn world... pure brilliance.

STOLEN by Lucy Christopher - This story and its vivid setting is still haunting me, six months later. Enough said. (For more details on STOLEN, you can read my blog post.)

WE WERE LIARS by E. Lockhart - I finished listening to the audio version of WE WERE LIARS earlier today, and I’m Absolutely. Completely. Wrecked. I feel like I've been punched in the gut and am still doubled over. This one is now up there on my list of all-time YA faves, right next to JELLICOE ROAD.


That's our list for 2014! Tell us, what were your favorite reads of this year?

Friday, December 19, 2014
It's that time of year again...when We Heart YA decides what fictional presents we'd give to some of our favourite fictional characters.


I would like to give Cadence (from WE WERE LIARS by E. Lockhart) the book TINY BEAUTIFUL THINGS by Cheryl Strayed. It’s a compilation of personal essays – advice columns, technically – that are all about self-understanding, self-acceptance, and self-forgiveness. It’s one of my all-time favorite reads, and I half-jokingly call it my Bible. Even though there isn’t an essay that directly relates to Cadence’s problems – which are pretty unique – I still think she could find a lot of comfort in reading Strayed’s words and embracing Strayed’s philosophy of “radical empathy.”


I would give Augustus Waters from THE FAULT IN OUR STARS a transfusion of Cylon blood to cure his cancer.


I'd put on a Christmas dinner and introduce SERAPHINA to FIRE, Elisa, Karou and the CHIME child. Then she'd see sooner that we're all monsters capable of destruction. And better the monster you know.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What is the best book or book-related thing you've ever received for Christmas?

Sarah: One year I received a really sweet copy of LITTLE WOMEN from some cool girl named Stephanie Mooney. But my favourite ever present was a leather-bound journal with blank pages for scribbles and story sketches. I used to be quite Romantic in choosing what things were worthy of inclusion. If I had a quill pen, I probably would have used it as well and only by candle or moonlight. You get the picture of 'tween me.' She's still around somewhere!

Kristan: Oh man, I actually got a quill fountain pen as a gift once. It's so cool! (But to be honest, it basically stays in its box in a drawer, because really it's kind of a hassle to use...)

I've gotten SO many books and bookish things over the years, there's no way I could pick just one as the "best." So I'll just say that this year I won a copy of MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME, the anthology of YA holiday stories edited by Stephanie Perkins, and it's pretty great so far. Big thanks to Teen Lit Rocks for that giveaway!

Stephanie: When I was eight or nine years old, I was obsessed with Frances Hodgson Burnett's A LITTLE PRINCESS. I remember one of those years, I received a locket for Christmas that looked an awful lot like Sara's in the movie, and I used to pretend it was the same one. It wasn't intended to be a book-related gift, but I always thought of it as my princess locket.

What is your favorite book related gift?
Friday, December 12, 2014

Due to the holidays, YA Diversity Book Club is taking a month off from our selected reading – but fear not, we’re still shining a light on great diverse titles! This month we’re each sharing our favorite diverse reads from 2014. Here are mine:

American Born Chinese Originally published in 2006, AMERICAN BORN CHINESE by Gene Luen Yang has earned tons of awards and honors, but I didn’t bump it to the top of my TBR pile until late last year when I met Gene and got a signed copy from him at Books by the Banks. Then I zipped through this clever graphic novel, with its 3 “separate” stories that weave together so beautifully. As an ABC myself (sort of… half ABC, anyway) I definitely found a lot to relate to.

Caminar I think CAMINAR by Skila Brown is technically Middle Grade, but the lyricism of this novel in verse, and its nuanced portrayal of a boy during a time of war, could appeal to mature readers of any age. Through the story of Carlos, I learned about the history and culture of Guatemala. The time and place might be foreign to me, but Carlos’s fear, his love of family, and his hope are universal.

Pointe POINTE by Brandy Colbert isn’t just one of my favorite diverse reads of 2014; it’s one of my favorite books of the year, period. I’ve already blogged a bit about how perfectly the cover captures the tone of the story. I’ll add that Theo is an excellent protagonist, not because she’s virtuous and heroic, but because she’s sharp and flawed and vulnerable and real. The fact that she’s black isn’t irrelevant – how could it be, in a time when our country is still struggling to value young black lives appropriately? – but it’s not the point of the story either. It’s just part of Theo’s identity, as much as being a ballerina or living in Chicago.

The Walled City Last but not least, THE WALLED CITY by Ryan Graudin is one excellent answer to author Matt de la Peña’s question, "Where's the African-American Harry Potter or the Mexican Katniss?" In this case, the heroes are not black or Hispanic, but Chinese. In fact, the whole cast is. And yet that changes nothing, in terms of storytelling. The action is gripping, the characters interesting and well-developed, the themes thought-provoking. This is one of those books that I think serves as both mirror and window at the same time. I hope to see more like it in the years to come.

What great diverse books did you read in 2014?

Here are the picks from Teen Lit Rocks and the Reading Date.

YA Diversity Book Club will be back in Jan 2015, reading THE WAY WE BARED OUR SOULS by Willa Strayhorn. Feel free to join us!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Where is your favorite place to write?

Kristan: Argh sorry I can't pick just one!

I really like writing at home, which is good because that's where I am the most. It's just comfortable, you know?

I also tend to get a lot done at airports and on planes, because other than boarding at the right time, there are almost no other demands on my energy or attention.

And then of course there's the strange appeal of writing in a totally unfamiliar and unexpected place. Like at a little café in small town Ireland, or on a subway in NYC. I get stimulated by my own isolation, my own foreign-ness in those situations. It's easy to slip into a world of my own making when I'm already someplace I don't really know.

Sarah: I get the most writing done when I'm sitting at a desk (I've moved mine around from the kitchen, the living room, dining room and my bedroom and now I don't have room for it anywhere) but my favourite place to write is when lounging on the couch. I'm so lazy!!

Stephanie: I love writing in coffee shops and dark work cubicles at the back of the library. It has to be quiet but not silent. I love writing in a place that makes me feel like a writer.

Ingrid: Usually I write at my desk in my office, but sometimes I'll bring my laptop to other rooms in my house... the living room in front of the fireplace, snuggled in bed, or the deck in the summertime. Overall I prefer to write at home rather than at a cafe or coffee shop, although I do venture out when I'm in a rut.

What about you? What is your favorite place to write?
Friday, December 5, 2014
Last time that I posted, I discussed my new position as a school librarian and how suprised-but-not-surprised I have been at the trickly amounts of books being taken out and read. Starting next week, I have a book club organised with four students. More will come, I know, because they will smell the biscuits (okay, I'm turning British) and stay for the awesome. But there are students who wouldn't dream of turning up...and, fortunately for them, I am a sneaky sneak.

For the Mysterio who reads manga each and every lunchtime--who makes a beeline for the understocked shelf--I give thee ATTACK ON TITAN.

For the Wanderers--who are bored out of their exasperated minds--I bring you AMAZEBALLS...

[Hipster says: "I like your new shelf."
Cloudy Glasses says: "Is that an American thing?"
Hipster says: "Not really, Amazeballs is everywhere."]

For the Gentleman--who borrows and returns CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS each and every week--okay, you can read it again. If you have to.

And for the Undecided reader--who shakes his head 'nope' as I guide him through the science and nature magazines, the sport books, the Thrillers, Tolkien, newspapers, Guinness records, the new fiction titles, even the display of books that have been turned into movies!--fortunately, for you, there's always The Gaiman.

["Know him?" I ask.
*shakes his head*
"Wrote an episode of Dr. Who...has some other books out...there's illustrations's funny."

Yeah, he is.
Yeah, you are.
Welcome to the Library.

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?

 * * *
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


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.


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?

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about us

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



on the shelf

The Bitter Kingdom
Wild Awake
The Raven Boys
Mind Games
Eleanor and Park
The Shattered Mountain
The Shadow Cats
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
The Fault in Our Stars

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