Friday, May 29, 2015

So they're making a movie based on the Goosebumps novels by R.L. Stine, coming out this October, and I'm super excited about it. I realize that if you're a teenager right now, there's a good chance you've never heard of Goosebumps. If you're sixteen years old today, then they were all written before you were even born. That's just crazy to me.

Goosebumps were YA before YA was a thing. People seem to think Harry Potter was the first series of Young Adult novels. Nope. YA literature has always been around, just in a different section of the library.

So because I'm feeling nostalgic, and I'm reminiscing about what I read when I was in school, I thought I would recommend some YA books from yester years that are still worth reading today. Enjoy!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens AgendaWhen Kristan told me that YA Diversity Book Club had picked SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA for this month, I was excited to have someone to gush with me over the story. You see, Simon inflates my heart. This book made me feel like I was in love. Love in all its awkwardness, agony and impossibility.

So when Kristan asked me if I wanted to post about Simon, I was like...let me think...YES! This is not because I need to add to the hype that surrounds the book. This is certainly something that fatigues our group. i.e. If something's getting loads of attention, it tends to influence our reading, and not normally in a good way.

I wanted to post about Simon because I felt him.

There are things in this book that aren't perfect. *shrugs her shoulders* You'll most likely guess Blue's identity (which is delicious). You'll probably dislike certain characters and then understand them a bit later on (just like real life). You might even forget all the minor characters that pale in comparison to Simon (his name's in the title, yo). And somehow that will all be okay because for the length of a book, you will BE Simon. And you'll nod along to his thoughts because you KNOW him. (Spoiler: I'm not gay). The world around him is quietened when Blue is in it. Things dim and brighten and crash and burn and rise just like a good story. But what everything comes down to is Simon. Clever, beautiful, funny Simon:

"...I'm tired of coming out. All I ever do is come out. I try not to change, but I keep changing, in all these tiny ways. I get a girlfriend. I have a beer. And every freaking time, I have to introduce myself to the universe all over again."
"'It's a Dementor robe over my clothes...'
'What's a Dementor?'
I mean, I can't even. 'Nora, you are no longer my sister.'"
"I have to meet him. I don't think I can keep this up. I don't care if it ruins everything. I'm this close to making out with my laptop screen. Blue Blue Blue Blue Blue Blue Blue."
"As a side note, don't you think everyone should have to come out? Why is straight the default? Everyone should have to declare one way or another, and it should be this big awkward thing whether you're straight, gay, bi, or whatever...
Love, Jacques"
"Awkwardness should be a requirement. I guess this is sort of our version of the Homosexual Agenda?
Love, Blue.
P.S. By the way, guess what I'm eating at this very moment."
"The Homosexual Agenda? I don't know. I think it's more like the Homo Sapiens Agenda. That's really the point, right?
Love, Jacques.
P.S. You have me curious. A banana? Hot dog? Cucumber? :-)"

I think (hope) that you'll love him as much as I do.

* * * * *

For more on SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA, be sure to check out all of our great features:

Our group discussion at the Teen Lit Rocks
Q&A with Becky Albertalli at Gone Pecan
"Simon Says: The Audiobook Agenda" at the Reading Date

Next month we're reading UNDER A PAINTED SKY by Stacey Lee. Please feel free to join us by reading along! You can also visit the full archive of YADBC posts and #YADiversityBookClub tweets.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


A few highlights:

1. On "The Chosen One" stories
RR: Well, I think we all sort of want to be chosen. Because being chosen means having a purpose. Being chosen gives your life meaning and clarity.

KT: And it makes pain so much more bearable, in some ways, whereas a teenager struggling with depression may find it hard to figure out whether their pain and their life has meaning.

2. On beauty
I went almost 40 years without seeing anyone presented as beautiful unless they met a really narrow standard. I never saw fat women presented as beautiful. I think Tumblr, specifically, has actually healed my brain. It’s exposed me to so many types of beauty. And I realized that I have widened my own standards to include myself.
Saturday, May 16, 2015

It has been said that the setting of a book is almost like another character. That is certainly true for many of my favorite novels, in which the setting evokes vivid images as well as intimate familiarity. It's like I am living the story along with the characters; I can see, hear and feel everything around me--the trickle of a stream, the soggy heat of a summer day, or the first burst of light as the sun rises. Reading a book by authors skilled at creating rich, organic environments is a treat for the senses and one of my favorite luxuries.

Below are five books that blew me away with their solid use of setting:

1. The Harry Potter Series (JK Rowling)

Well. You knew it had to be on the list. I mean, Hogwarts and Diagon Alley? Platform Nine and Three Quarters and the Room of Requirement? Obviously, JK Rowling is a master at this. While setting is typically a large part of fantasy novels, the Harry Potter books went above and beyond in this category.

"The hundreds of faces staring at them looked like pale lanterns in the flickering candlelight. Dotted here and there among the students, the ghosts shone misty silver...Harry looked upward and saw a velvety black ceiling dotted with stars."
-Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone   

2. Stolen (Lucy Christopher)
I blogged about this book last July and thinking about it still leaves me with goosebumps. The story takes place in the vast desert of  the Australian Outback--a place full of venomous snakes and frantic windstorms, wild camels and open skies. This was her debut novel, yet Christopher nailed the stark beauty of the setting like a pro.

"You said you knew the perfect place to run to. A place that was empty of people, and buildings, and far, far away. A place covered in blood-red earth and sleeping life. A place longing to come alive again. It's a place for disappearing, you'd said, a place for getting lost...and for getting found."
-Stolen: A Letter to my Captor

3. The Raven Boys Series (Maggie Stiefvater)
Small, rural Henrietta, Virginia is no longer just a speck on the map. Now, thanks to Stiefvater, it is alive with caves and farms and forests and magic. It is filled with pretentious prep school boys and psychic families and quirky, lovable characters. But always, it is the pulse of Henrietta that binds them all together.

"It didn't escape Blue that his slightly accented voice was as nice as his looks. It was all Henrietta sunset: hot front-porch swings and cold ice-tea glasses, cicadas louder than your thoughts." 
-The Raven Boys

4. Like Mandarin (Kirsten Hubbard)
Rural Washokey, Wyoming shrugs to life in this coming-of-age novel about the allure of 'bad girl' Mandarin and her affect on 14-year-old Grace. Describing the wind-whipped landscape of Wyoming, there is much to appreciate in Hubbard's lyrical, atmospheric writing.

"I'd wandered through the Washokey Badlands Basin so many times I'd memorized the feeling. The forlorn boom of the wind. A sky big enough to scare an atheist into prayer. No wonder cowboys sang about being lonesome." 
-Like Mandarin 

5. The Twilight Saga (Stephenie Meyer)   
The setting of Meyer's popular novels--rain-soaked Forks, Washington--has become so famous that it is now a real-life Twilight tourist destination. That speaks volumes about how Meyer brought this region to fame in her best-selling vampire love story.

"We drove south out of town. The dirt road wove in and out of the forest--sometimes there was nothing but trees, and then there would suddenly be a breathtaking glimpse of the Pacific Ocean, reaching to the horizon, dark gray under the clouds."  
-New Moon

Whether done through personification or a smattering of sensory details, creating an alluring setting in any novel is a skill to be treasured. What are some of your favorite settings in books?

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Link: at Huff Post Books

A few highlights:

1. On the word "pretty"
Even though when I was a teenager I understood that it was great to be smart and talented and funny and brave, I was the most anxious about being pretty. I felt its importance really early on, and I took it on as a kind of goal. In some ways the word pretty is a little like the word love -- it only has the meaning we assign to it. There isn't a definitive pretty, but we act as if there is. I still feel the echoes of my concern with prettiness, it still feels like a large and important word to me, but in writing this book I hoped to dismantle it a bit -- for myself and for readers. I'd like to strip it of its importance, so that we can focus on all the other great things we can be. But for now, if I'm entirely honest, it's still a word that haunts me. 

2. On writing for teens vs. writing for adults
For now, I like writing from a teen perspective since I have some distance from that time in my life and the distance frees me up to write honestly and emotionally. But aside from that personal preference, I think the strategies and craft and emotional energy it takes to write a book remains the same. I am writing about teenagers, but mostly I'm writing about people. Teens are all reading adult novels in school, so there's no reason to write differently for them. The benefit of YA is that it is more squarely about things they might be experiencing and is taking their interior lives seriously. But in terms of craft or intent, I don't think there's a difference.
Thursday, May 7, 2015

Three weeks ago, I had a visitor.

no idea what's happening in the back 
All of We Heart YA used to live in Cincinnati, you see, and now we live in exotic places like Denver, London and...Norwood ;)

Let's pretend that we moved to these far-flung places just to make our holidays that much more interesting. London, for instance, has never been as magical as it was when exploring with Kristan.

can't get lost with a pink backpack
I had yet to visit Borough Market under the London Bridge and so glad that we did...

modeled by my own DNA
We went to Cambridge and found where DNA was discovered...
We went to my brother-in-law's farm traipsing about in the mud to feed Jack the horse and cuddle fox  hound puppies...


I wish I could say that we also did tons of writing and worked on our projects, but living and experiencing was the work we had to hand. And we did it well!

finally some proper English weather!

Have you been on any adventures lately?
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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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