Thursday, October 30, 2014

Lies We Tell OurselvesThis month's YA Diversity Book Club read was LIES WE TELL OURSELVES by Robin Talley. It was very eye-opening, as you'll see below. But first, a description:

In 1959 Virginia, the lives of two girls on opposite sides of the battle for civil rights will be changed forever.

Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to attend the previously all-white Jefferson High School. An honors student at her old school, she is put into remedial classes, spit on and tormented daily.

Linda Hairston is the daughter of one of the town's most vocal opponents of school integration. She has been taught all her life that the races should be kept separate but equal.

Forced to work together on a school project, Sarah and Linda must confront harsh truths about race, power and how they really feel about one another.

The book alternates between Sarah and Linda's point of views, and each chapter heading is a lie that one of the girls is telling herself -- which the chapter itself then contradicts. Using that same format, I'd like to talk about a few lies that LWTO makes readers confront.

#1 - LGBTQ issues are a recent thing.

With marriage equality spreading (rightfully) like wildfire -- 32 states and counting! -- it's easy to assume that the struggle for LGBTQ rights has been fast and furious. But it hasn't. Because there have been queer people since the beginning of human history, and they still aren't treated fairly in most of the world.

In LWTO, Talley juxtaposes the larger struggle for civil rights with the personal struggles of her two heroines coming to terms with their sexuality. In doing so, she reminds readers that all the tough moments in history have been endured by members of the LGBTQ community too. They shared those experiences with everyone else -- but they also had unique perspectives and challenges.

#2 - The civil rights movement eliminated racism in our country.

In LWTO, Sarah Dunbar and her friends are trying to do their part to help secure equal rights for blacks in America. Schools, service, jobs, etc. Everything was segregated back then -- which is kind of hard and crazy to imagine now.

But the thing is, racism isn't gone; it's just more subtle in the 21st century. It's the wrongful deaths of Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown. It's Donald Sterling's private remarks. It's people questioning President Obama's birth certifcate. It's everywhere, and the first step in fixing it is to acknowledge the problems, even if we find them in ourselves or in people that we love, no matter how difficult that may be.

#3 - Adults always know best.

When we're young, we look up to our parents, grandparents, teachers, etc. We trust adults to have the answers, to be older and wiser. And usually they are -- but they're still human too. That means they can be wrong and make mistakes. They are products of their own upbringing, with whatever outdated beliefs or practices that might entail. The best adults will try to learn and grow to keep up with the changing times. But again: they're human.

In LWTO, Linda Hairston struggles to admit that the adults in her life are not the best role models. Her father stubbornly clings to ugly ideals in the name of "tradition," and her mother just tries to stay out of his way. Poor Linda has no choice but to break away from their poor judgment, and instead trust what she knows in her heart to be right.

#4 - You can never change your mind.

More than anything, what I took away from LWTO is to have an open heart and an open mind. Both Sarah and Linda feel very strongly about their positions at the start of the story, but if they aren't willing to listen to one another, to consider someone else's perspective, then they can never grow into better versions of themselves -- or find their paths to happiness.

Maybe all of these lies are variations on the same theme. Honesty, compassion, and education. These are the bricks that pave the way forward, for individuals and for society.

And do you know what fosters honesty, compassion, and education? Good stories, whether fictional or true.

(That's why #WeNeedDiverseBooks!)

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For more on LIES WE TELL OURSELVES, be sure to check out all the YA Diversity Club posts:

••• Our group discussion at Teen Lit Rocks. This book had us nervous, impressed, frustrated, sympathetic... everything!

••• Q&A with author Robin Talley at the Reading Date. Talley talks about her family connection to the story, how she researched for the time period, and some of her favorite diverse YA books.

Next month we'll be discussing TELL ME AGAIN HOW A CRUSH SHOULD FEEL by Sara Farizan. Feel free to read along with us!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Earlier this month, our friends at YA Highway asked:


Stephanie: While I was growing up, I lived across the street from a town hall, which was supposedly haunted by the ghost of a man named Wesley who hung himself in the attic many many years ago. I remember going to Girl Scout lock-ins and hearing the doors opening and shutting on the empty third floor, and the stories about how all the furniture would rearrange itself in the night when no one was there. The bell tower was visible from my bedroom window, and every once in a while, I could have sworn I saw a man in the window. ;) That's my favorite ghost story, because it's also a childhood memory.

Premade BG 65Kristan: Ooo, your answer inspired me!

Growing up, one of my friends found a hidden passage that went from the closet in her bedroom to the closet in another upstairs room. We snuck in, crawled around, and found an old matchbook, a faded receipt, and a dusty pair of men's blue jeans. Using our Ghost Writer skills, we deduced that the house used to be part of the Underground Railroad, and that the pants belonged to a runaway slave. Then we wondered why he would have left his pants... Obviously he died in her house! That meant his ghost was probably haunting the place -- haunting us! Needless to say, we had a hard time falling asleep that night.

Stephanie: Kristan, that's hilarious. Also, I want to live in your friend's house. Passageways are the coolest!

Ingrid: I don't like to read ghost stories for the most part (they scare me). But I do like A Christmas Carol, which has ghosts in it. And, of course, Harry Potter :)

Sarah: I entirely love ghost stories, and was quite a morbid little kiddunk. My favourite book in elementary school was WAIT TILL HELEN COMES. I could probably still read it and get goosebumps and not sleep for months. A small price to pay.


Join in the fun by leaving your answer in the comments here, at YA Highway, on your own blog, or on Twitter (and be sure to use the hashtag #roadtripwednesday!).

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Last week I started a new day job as a secondary school librarian (in England, that typically means ages 11-16). It is just as cool as it sounds working with students, surrounded by literature, having my own office, being the boss of my own bookish domain.

I've tidied and cleaned and made everything just so. I've become acquainted with the stacks and found the best covers to turn out for discovery. I have organised and made signs and posters. I have built something...

...but the readers have not come.

In two weeks, the library has lent out six books.

see Goodreads
As a small, rural school of roughly 240 students, this isn't terribly surprising (technically there are 45 books in the overdues list so closet readers there be). There just isn't the volume of people going into and out of the library for reading material. I have seen the same faces every day, but they're in the library to do their homework or research on the computer. I put out some board games for the vulnerable, who use the library to hide out, or the bored who spend break time wandering the grounds. Even they need coaxing toward the fiction shelves which are only an arm-stretch away.

It baffles me, but there are a lot of people that don't like reading. Like, that is a thing that exists.

see Goodreads
Some people are choosing to wander around aimlessly rather than discover the portals to Eretz or roam the secret passageways to the tomb of Elena. Some people would rather spin a piece of paper on the table than be transported to Paris and fall in love with a boy called Etienne and some would rather sit in a circle with their friends and stare at their thumbs than discuss the heartwrenching loss of Prim.

This is a thing!!

So, I'm doing the only thing a respectable librarian can do. I'm going to bribe them.

From November to March there is an event being organised by the School Library Service called the Essex Book Awards (Essex being the county the school is located). I have to somehow get a group of readers together, read some books, vote on our favourite and write reviews for the SLS blog. I am going to need a lot of bribes (sweets). Good thing Halloween is next week!

Watch this space for how I'm getting on. And if you were choosing from these books, which would you read first? I've only read SHE IS NOT INVISIBLE and thorougly enjoyed it. I think the students would as well if they could just quit their thing of not reading.

Others shortlisted for the award: I Predict a Riot by Catherine Bruton, Never Ending by Martin Bedford and The Middle of Nowhere by Geraldine McCaughrean.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Why do I get the feeling that our friends at YA Highway are trolling for embarrassing pictures? This week's question:


Source: Family Bites
Ingrid: Well, I really liked the woodland fairy outfit I wore to my friend's Halloween party last year!

But my best costume ever would probably be the one I had when I was six years old. My parents turned me into a "real" robot with silver tubing for my arms and legs, and big silver boxes to cover my head and body. I wore a pair of those fake glasses with lights that glowed when I pushed a button. The only problem was, the tubing kept my arms pulled out away from my body, like I was draped over a hanger. That got tiring really fast...

Stephanie: One year I was Rogue from X-Men. That was my favorite. One of these days I'm going to redo it.

Sarah: Strawberry Shortcake. I smelled awesome.

Kristan: Goodness, I can't even remember the last time I dressed up... Maybe freshman year of college? I went as a ninja, because I had black pants, a black shirt, and a second black shirt to wrap around my face for the ninja mask.

To be honest, I've always been kind of lazy about costumes. Even as a kid. My Pocahontas costume was a beige t-shirt with torn fringes. I repurposed a "Queen of Hearts" costume to be about 5 different things -- including the "Firebird" pictured here. And one year I wrapped a flowered cloth around my waist (with jeans on underneath) and said I was "Hawaiian." So, you know, this really isn't the best question for me to be answering...

I much prefer seeing great costumes on Halloween, as I man the candy bowl at the door!


Join in the fun by leaving your answer in the comments here, at YA Highway, on your own blog, or on Twitter (and be sure to use the hashtag #roadtripwednesday!).

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

YA author Paolo Bacigalupi recently stated:
The more I write stories for young people, and the more young readers I meet, the more I'm struck by how much kids long to see themselves in stories. To see their identities and perspectives—their avatars—on the page. Not as issues to be addressed or as icons for social commentary, but simply as people who get to do cool things in amazing worlds. Yes, all the “issue” books are great and have a place in literature, but it's a different and wildly joyous gift to find yourself on the pages of an entertainment, experiencing the thrills and chills of a world more adventurous than our own.

The Walled City
THE WALLED CITY by Ryan Graudin is one such "joyous gift."

The dystopian-ish setting was inspired by the real-life district of Kowloon, a lawless, walled-off settlement in Hong Kong. Almost the entire cast of the story is Chinese -- but that's incidental. Ethnicity and culture aren't the point; they're just a part of the details.

The story is about a girl trying to find her kidnapped sister, a boy trying to redeem his criminal past, and the vulnerable young woman who connects them. The writing is lyrical and lush, the plot tense and exciting. THE WALLED CITY definitely falls on the grittier end of the YA spectrum, but there's hope and romance too. I think the book would appeal to fans of Veronica Roth, Marissa Meyer, and Marie Lu.

More importantly, I think there are thousands of young Asian readers who will appreciate seeing themselves reflected in Jin, Dai, and Mei Yee. Who will enjoy being the hero of the adventure, instead of just the geeky best friend or sidekick. I know that Teenage Me would have.

And non-Asian readers will identify with these characters too! Because they're human. They dream, they fear, they strive, they fail. Like any of us. Like all of us.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Our friends at YA Highway are on a Halloween kick this month. Their question for the week:


Kristan: I don't enjoy truly scary or gruesome movies. (There's enough of that on the nightly news, thanks.) I prefer "fluffy" horror films like Scream or I Know What You Did Last Summer, which are honestly probably the first/last/only horror movies I've watched, hahaha. They're so campy that I can't help but laugh, even right after I jump and scream.

Stephanie: I also don't enjoy anything too scary or gory. It's just not worth losing my peace of mind when I'm going to sleep at night. Most of the scary movies I like are actually "thrillers" like The Sixth Sense, where the focus is more on the story line than on jump scares and blood.

Ingrid: I really can't stand horror movies. Even watching a trailer for a horror movie can keep me awake all night. Even the silly ones like Scream give me the willies. However, I do enjoy paranormal films like The Sixth Sense and psychological thrillers like Misery.

Sarah: Um, horror. Yeah. I have passively watched loads (my other half is a fan of horror), but the only film to actually grab my attention and keep me riveted was Pan's Labyrinth. Not a traditional horror, but perhaps a fantasy that stares down the dark hallways of gore and madness without blinking. I loved this film so much that I have built a shrine to it in my memory and have locked the door. I don't think I want to go back in there... I don't think.

You: Join in the fun by leaving your answer in the comments here, at YA Highway, on your own blog, or on Twitter (and be sure to use the hashtag #roadtripwednesday!).

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

(Katsa artwork by Maseiya on deviantArt.)

Hello everyone! After losing my mom this past March, I took a sabbatical from blogging. This is what the other WHYA girls are calling my Triumphant Return... well, we’ll see how triumphant it is.

Since my mom passed away, due to grief or busyness or lack of motivation, I haven’t been getting into books very easily. So one of the things I’ve been doing to combat that is listening to audiobooks.

One of the audiobooks I’ve listened to recently is BITTERBLUE by Kristin Cashore, the final book in the Graceling Series. It was my favorite of the three. I loved the mystery and the world building, I loved the characters, I loved that it’s formatted differently than most fantasy novels. One interesting thing I noticed was how differently I felt about Katsa in BITTERBLUE than I did in GRACELING. To be honest, I had a hard time liking her in GRACELING. But yet, I absolutely loved her in BITTERBLUE.

Part of this is because I listened to both books as audiobooks, and the performances of the first and third books in the series are very different. The audiobook for GRACELING is read by a full cast, with the narrator voiced by an American male and Katsa’s dialogue by an American female. BITTERBLUE, however, is read by a single British actress who uses a Scottish accent for Katsa’s dialogue that reminded me very much of Merida from Brave, adventurous and fun and feisty.

Another difference between the two books is that in BITTERBLUE, Katsa is a secondary character. I was seeing Katsa through Bitterblue’s eyes rather than her own. Bitterblue sees Katsa as someone to look up to, someone loveably wild and brave, and so that was how I saw her too. In GRACELING, Katsa’s self-loathing kind of got old for me. It does serve its purpose, but I found it hard to like a character who hates herself so much. Which is interesting, because I loved Briony Larkin in CHIME by Franny Billingsley, who also struggles with self-hatred caused by a misunderstanding of who she is.

It’s funny what a difference the perception of another character and the interpretation of the audiobook readers can make. It makes me wonder how I would see other characters if I was reading about them through a different point of view. Or if I heard their story read by someone else’s voice.

Friday, October 3, 2014

The winner of our September commenter giveaway is Reading Underground. 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.
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Blue Lily, Lily Blue (The Raven Cycle, #3)First thing's first, she's the realeast: The third installment of Maggie Stiefvater's Raven Cycle series is coming out this month! BLUE LILY, LILY BLUE promises even more adventures between Blue Sargent and her Raven Boys. Magic, dreams, and mystery. Thank goodness the wait is almost over!

My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday StoriesNormally we don't like to jump on the holiday train too soon, but this year we're making an exception for MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME, the anthology of love stories edited by Stephanie Perkins. So many of our favorite authors contributed, and (no surprise to us) the collection is garnering its fair share of starred reviews. Huge thanks to Teen Lit Rocks for pre-ordering a copy for us!

Glory O'Brien's History of the FutureScold us if you must, but here's a confession: We haven't read any A.S. King yet! She's always on our list, but as you all know, the list is ever-growing, ever-changing. Maybe her new one, GLORY O'BRIEN'S HISTORY OF THE FUTURE will be the book that finally does the trick. The story deals with a high school girl who can see the future, and it isn't pretty. What will she do to change it?

Two forthcoming fantasy books have been getting tons of good buzz: THE YOUNG ELITES by Marie Lu and SNOW LIKE ASHES by Sara Raasch.

And then, on the flipside, there are two contemporaries that have really piqued our pickle: OF SCARS AND STARDUST by Andrea Hannah and EVEN IN PARADISE by Chelsea Philpot.

The Young Elites (The Young Elites, #1) Snow Like Ashes (Snow Like Ashes, #1) Of Scars and Stardust Even in Paradise
What did we miss? What new releases are you guys looking forward to this month?

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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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