Archive by Author

Divergent

19 Nov


Beatrice has lived her entire life as a part of the Abnegation faction of her city (a ruined dystopia which was formerly Chicago).  Abnegation values thinking of others before the self, and everything is about forgetting selfish needs and desires.  The other four factions are Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). Beatrice longs to escape the confines of selfless living, and she knows on her sixteenth birthday she will be able to choose another faction.  The only problem is that if she chooses to leave Abnegation she can never come back, and she will almost never see her family again. The day comes for her to choose between staying with her family and being true to herself, and her choice leads her to a competitive and grueling initiation where she must figure out who her friends are and keep the truth about herself a secret.

The Hype

Nora: So Divergent is hyped as the next Hunger Games, and for the most part I thought it lived up to the buzz.  It isn’t as powerful or resonating as Hunger Games, but it is almost as exciting.  

Em: I think this new series has great potential, but I’m not sure if it will rival The Hunger Games for me (which is ok, not all books have to be that good). The big difference between the two first installments of these two dystopian YA series is that Divergent felt more like a set up for the series than a solid book in itself, whereas The Hunger Games could stand alone without the next two books. So much of Divergent was focused on initiation and it wasn’t until the very end that we get deep into the conflict. It is a great lead up to the second book, but I guess I wish it was a great lead up to the middle of the first book instead.  

That being said, Roth did a great job of creating characters and conflict that I want to see further developed in Insurgent (the next book in the series). And I enjoyed the world-building even though I didn’t buy the premise. I still want to learn more about how this society works (or doesn’t work) and what the world outside of the city is like. I’m also hopeful that Roth won’t turn the series into a love-centered storyline – I loved The Hunger Games, but once it became all Team Gale vs. Team Peeta, I kind of gagged a little. 

Nora: I agree that the love triangle part of The Hunger Games is one of the weaker parts of the story. I do think that it will work better in the movie…sometimes I need a visual to get the story. With Divergent I actually like the romance element. I think the boys are way more interesting than Peeta and Gale.

Characters

Em: Tris (Beatrice) is a solid protagonist. She’s complex. She has flaws. She’s tough, but not without her soft-side. And I love her relationship with Four – it seems natural and not too soppy – no insta-love here. All the other side characters are pretty fascinating too – from Tris’ parents and brother to friends Christina and Will and of course Peter who could prove to be a favorite character (not in a let’s be friends kind of way). Character development is a real strong point in this series thus far, and I am excited to carry forward with those that made it through book one (yup, Roth can be brutal, and I appreciate that!).

Nora: Beatrice is a little too self-doubting for me. I would like it if she got angrier, and was more complex with her actions and emotions. I also think it is a weakness that the characters can’t really interact with their families after they divide into factions. I just didn’t feel like Roth did a good job justifying why they had to separate completely from their families.

The Sorting Hat

Nora: My favorite thing is the Harry Potter-esque way in which one can sort oneself and their friends into the different houses – sorry I mean faction.  I think I am either Amity or Erudite. I could NEVER be Dauntless – all those paths that lack railings and jumping on and off of moving trains would kill me instantly – my ankle still hurts after spraining it horseback riding six years ago, so there is no way I could make it through combat training and all the other stuff they do. And Abnegation? Well, the details make Abnegation seem like a crazy religious cult where there aren’t any mirrors and people wear gray sack-like outfits. Not for me. 

Em: We can be faction roomies! If I had to choose a faction, I’d either go Amity or Erudite (though I think factions are stupid). But I’m definitely Divergent. When I take those Myers-Briggs style tests, I’m always split down the middle on the various traits. But Myers-Briggs says I’m an ideal teacher, so I guess I should go Erudite and then secretly be true to my Divergent self.

Nora: Let’s go for Erudite. We can just be nice on the side when we feel like it, but it won’t be a constant requirement.

Final Words

Em: While the story is at times reminiscent of previous dystopian novels (The Giver and The Hunger Games in particular), the writing, character development, and overall action make Divergent stand out. This is an impressive debut from Veronica Roth with great potential for being an exciting series. I will definitely pick up Insurgent and highly suggest that you give Divergent a try, if you haven’t already. 

Nora: I agree. I think it is worth reading, and is for the most part exciting and engaging. I wish more boundaries were being pushed though.

Em’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Nora’s rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Author: Veronica Roth
Publisher: HarperTeen (May 2011)

Note: ARCs received from April at Good Books and Good Wine and from publisher for honest review.

Carrier of the Mark Blog Tour: The School

30 Sep


On October 4th, Leigh Fallon’s Carrier of the Mark will hit bookshelves across the country. Fallon’s debut novel is the first book discovered on inkpop, a writing community created by HarperCollins Publishers, to be chosen for publication. Carrier of the Mark tells the story of Megan Rosenberg, a young woman who moves to Ireland from America with her dad. She feels at home in her new school, makes new friends and is drawn to a handsome, mysterious young man named Adam DeRís. But as Megan soon discovers, her feelings for Adam are more than just attraction; they are tied to fate. Supernatural powers, Celtic legend, mystery, romance – you’ll find it all here.

We’re excited to be the first stop on the second blog tour for Leigh Fallon’s debut novel Carrier of the Mark. Each stop features a guest post from Leigh offering a special look at an important place in the book, starting with the school. So welcome, Leigh, to Love YA Lit!

    Kinsale Community School was my inspiration for the school at the center of Carrier of the Mark. It’s a modern school, a one level building surrounded by residential houses. The road leads right down to the Bandon Estuary where the Equestrian center is, and further down, the DeRises house.

    It’s a mixed school, and the only secondary school in the town. Kids get bussed in from all the small surrounding country towns to attend, so you get an amazing mix of people. They all wear uniforms, just like I described in the book.


    The school is surrounded by playing pitches, but not ones that most in the US would recognize. The main sports played in Ireland are Gaelic football, hurling, rugby, and soccer. Hurling is huge in the schools in West Cork. It’s played with a hurl, a club made of ash and a ball made of leather called a sliotar (pronounced shlit-er) looks a bit like a baseball. Hurling is the second fastest game in the world, ice hockey beats it by a smidge. It’s an amazing game to watch, lightning fast, and very dangerous. A lot of Kinsale school kids play it.

    The inside of the school and class descriptions were inspired by my own school experiences. I went to a Convent school in Dublin called Sancta Maria College. My school had a whole historical vibe to it. It was once a TB hospital, which made it uber creepy knowing that people had died there. *shudder* It still had the look of an old hospital with high ceilings, huge windows and great big glass doors the led out onto verandas. There was an even older section of the school that was a converted stable and kitchen; it had a giant old working aga (blogger’s note: aga = a stored-heat stove and cooker) that always had this huge kettle simmering on it. We all wore wine uniforms and the school was very strict on uniform policy. Even the teachers wore those old black cloaks!

    But my school did have the modern side to it too and I transferred my knowledge of my own school days into the characters in Carrier of the Mark, though I left out much of the deviance we put our long-suffering teachers through.

    Schools in Ireland don’t have lunch halls serving food. Just like in Carrier of the Mark, everyone brings their own food (generally horribly soggy sandwiches) and at lunch time students disperse to their various meeting points to moan about their horrible food and gossip about what’s going on in everyone’s lives.

    Oh and little interesting fact. The head mistress of the school in Carrier of the Mark is a nun called Sr. Basil. The head nun of my school, back when I attended was called Sr. Basil too. And she was exactly the same as in the book. No nonsense, no small talk, and utterly fair. She was strict, but I always liked her.


Leigh Fallon was born in South Africa, raised in Dublin, Ireland, and moved to Cork in her twenties. While living in beautiful Kinsale, her novel, Carrier of the Mark, was conceived. She promptly abandoned her “riveting” career in corporate treasury and discovered inkpop, a website for budding writers of teen fiction. Within weeks, her manuscript hit the coveted top-five spot and was reviewed by an editor at HarperCollins. A few emails and some hysterical screaming later, she signed her first deal. Leigh and her family now share their time between Ireland and the United States.

Be sure to stop by the next stop in the blog tour, Alison Can Read, on Monday, October 3, where Leigh Fallon will introduce you to another important location in Carrier of the Mark.

Book Blogger Appreciation Week: Meet Tiger of All-Consuming Books!

13 Sep



Book Blogger Appreciation Week was started by Amy Riley of My Friend Amy in an effort to recognize the hard work and contribution of book bloggers to the promotion and preservation of a literate culture actively engaged in discussing books, authors, and a lifestyle of reading. Connecting with, meeting, and collaborating with other book bloggers is an important and fun aspect of book blogging. This past year we have had the opportunity to meet and collaborate with so many fabulous bloggers. And today, we’re excited to meet yet another!


Welcome Tiger of All-Consuming Books to Love YA Lit! All-Consuming Books is an eclectic book blog focusing on urban fantasy and YA. Tiger is a 25-year-old Christian from Northern Alabama (you wouldn’t guess from all that snow) with degrees in English and Creative Writing. She is a book reviewer, a freelance writer, an assistant coach for Dixie Youth baseball, and an all around family girl.

What do you like the most about blogging?
My first instinct is to say “talking to other bloggers”, because we all have such a fun time talking together about our favorite stuff, but really I think I have the most fun promoting authors. There’s just such an rush that comes from knowing that I’m getting to publically support a favorite author and their wonderful work.

What are your favorite YA titles released this past year?
I have three picks for 2011: “Enclave” by Ann Aguirre, “Divergent” by Veronica Roth, and “Hourglass” by Myra McEntire. The first two books are pulse-pounding dystopians that think outside the box, while the last one is a very creative timeslip romance. I love seeing inventiveness in YA!

What YA titles portray Christian teens in a way that feels most real or familiar to you and your experience?
Ooh, good question. I think in most cases, I have to turn to actual Christian YA to find the best examples, because a lot of regular YA has the Christian kids be weird goody-goodies or has them be the villains. I really liked the honest portrayal of Christian teens in “Salvaged” by Stefne Miller because it was a book that dealt with major loss and emotional scars, while still presenting loveable characters and a hopeful message.

What are you looking forward to in blogging for the next year?
New releases from my favorite authors! I mentally (and sometimes audibly) squeal with delight when I think of the new offerings coming out from my favorite authors Ilona Andrews, Veronica Roth, Rachel Vincent, Ann Aguirre, and Jeaniene Frost.

What blogs do you appreciate the most?
I’m very devoted to For What It’s Worth, run by my friend Karen because we are blogger BFFs. If she says to check something out, I immediately do so. I also love Addicted 2 Novels, run by my by friend Lena, because she’s always got the scoop on the hottest new YA titles.

Thanks for stopping by, Tiger! Make sure to check out All-Consuming Books and the blogs, books, and authors mentioned above!

July is here!

1 Jul

Can you believe it is already July? Talk about time flying by! There are not too many bookish events that we’re planning to attend this month (aside from a great one at Oblong Books & Music), but there are a whole lot of books that we’re looking forward to reading!


White Crow
by Marcus Sedgwick
Anticipated Release Date: 7.5.11 Roaring Brook Press

    Nora loved Sedgwick’s Revolver, which was a Printz Honor book. His latest release (a new release in the US this month, old news in the UK) is said to be beautifully written, suspenseful, and scary. Em likes a good book that makes her shake in her boots (even if she’s not wearing them). The story is told in three voices which is interesting when done well and we’re betting Sedgwick won’t let us down here!

Now Is The Time For Running by Michael Williams
Anticipated Release Date: 7.5.11 Little, Brown Books For Young Readers

    Imagine you’re playing a game of soccer with your friends and all of a sudden soldiers come, devastating your village and forcing you to flee everything you’ve known. This book seems to explore both a refugee experience and the little-big-things that continue to give us hope in times of tragedy (in this case, the main character Deo’s love of soccer). Em and Nora’s hubbies both LOVE soccer (playing and watching) and Em has caught the bug (at least on the watching end) and so is looking forward to this as much for the soccer as for the refugee story. Nora loves refugees, but can’t read team sports books – Friday Night Lights is the only sports thing that she likes – so this one will likely not be for her.


Texas Gothic
by Rosemary Clement-Moore
Anticipated Release Date: 7.12.11 Delacorte Books for Young Readers

    A young woman from a family of witches, who wants to live in the mundane world, takes charge of her aunt’s not so normal ranch for the summer (are the goats paranormal? will have to read to find out). Then bodies are discovered, and there’s a ghosty creeping around, and a big ol’ mystery a la Nancy Drew (can’t you picture the book cover?). But there’s also a hot neighbor, and did I mention there are goats? Goats are good. Our friends have goats who loved jumping on their trampoline so much that they broke it! Nora grew up in Texas and says that going to your ranch in Texas is like going to your shore/country house on the east coast, only with more scorpions and underage drinking (and goats Nora! don’t forget the goats!).

The Summer I Learned To Fly by Dana Reinhardt
Anticipated Release Date: 7.12.11 Wendy Lamb Books

    This sounds like a sweet story about two new friends who go on an adventure together. Characters with quirky encyclopedic knowledge about rats and cheese sound like a fun addition as well. Set during one summer in the 80s, this could also be a nice opportunity for 80s summer flashbacks for adult readers out there. (note: when will there be books that give us 90s flashbacks!? that is what we’re really waiting for!)


Pearl
by Jo Knowles
Anticipated Release Date: 7.19.11 Henry Holt & Co. BYR

    Em met Jo Knowles at a book fest recently, and could tell by the way that she talked about her characters that she truly gets to know them and care for them in all their complexity. Nora and Em both also love stories that involve family secrets, so this one – about a young woman who learns more about her family history when her beloved grandfather dies – sounds right up our alley.

The Girl is Murder by Kathryn Miller Haines
Anticipated Release Date: 7.19.11 Roaring Brook Press

    YA noir. Yes. Please. (Em only, Nora does not do noir) Set in the early 1940s, young gal Iris goes all Veronica Mars when her private eye dad, back from war one leg short of a full set, finds himself limited in his ability to do all that he once could do in his detective work. The case? A missing boy from school. Sounds like this one will have great characters, strong sense of place/time, and a nice little mystery. (note: Hall & Oates’ Private Eyes is stuck in my head now – not necessarily a bad thing)


Love Story
by Jennifer Echols
Anticipated Release Date: 7.19.11 MTV

    Confession time: we have never read Jennifer Echols. That is about to change! In this little love story, our protagonist, Erin, loses her promised college tuition when she refuses to plan her life around taking over the family farm. Instead, her money pot goes to the farm’s stable boy and she has to work her butt off to make her educational dreams come true. In college, she finds herself writing about this hunky stable boy in her creative writing class. Then one day, the stable boy (the real deal one, not her fictional version) walks right on into class and shares his sexy stories that drive her wild.

Small Town Sinners by Melissa Walker
Anticipated Release Date: 7.19.11 Bloomsbury USA Children’s Book

    Hell House! Have y’all seen the documentary? So good! In Small Town Sinners, the main character is all like “this is my year to be Abortion Girl”, but then she meets this new guy in town and something happens with Hell House that makes her rethink everything. Based around a story that Walker wrote for Elle Girl, this one is a definite must read for us! Speaking of Nora’s Texas past and 90s flashbacks (see above), she went to an actual Hell House back in the early 90s. It was insane!

What are you looking forward to reading this month?!

Ten Reasons Why We Love Thirteen Reasons Why + giveaway

20 Jun


Ten Reasons Why Thirteen Reasons Why makes our Top Shelf:

1. Hannah’s story is heartbreaking. Just as I’m sure many of the listeners did, we wanted to be able to change things, to save Hannah (or help her to save herself), but it was too late.

2. The book speaks to the complexity of adolescence, and to what it means to be powerful or powerless or both.

3. 13RW shows how school is a community, and how when a member of the community is in pain, or in this case commits suicide,
many may hold responsibility.

4. While there is a lot of talk about bullying and prevention of bullying, this book shows how easy it is to be a bully without even knowing what one is doing.

5. Use of outdated technology is genius. Cassette tapes are so much more tactile, more real, than digital recordings. It makes the listening more of a task (lugging around a box of tapes, finding a tape deck, pressing those buttons, flipping/changing the tapes, etc), which adds an interesting element to Hannah’s farewell assignment.

6, 7, 8. The book is suspenseful, unique, and incredibly well-written.

9, 10. Ultimately, it has a strong anti-suicide message, and it also requires serious self-reflection on the parts of the characters involved.

About the book: Thirteen Reasons Why is the story of a girl named Hannah Baker who takes her own life. But before she does, she records several cassette tapes explaining why and sends them to the people she feels pushed her toward that decision. The story is told from the point of view of Clay Jensen who spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah’s voice as his guide. He becomes a first-hand witness to Hannah’s pain, and learns the truth about himself—a truth he never wanted to face.

Nora read 13RW in hardcover. Em listened to the audiobook. And now, there’s yet another edition to explore! In celebration of the paperback release of Thirteen Reasons Why, we are giving away two copies to two lucky winners! To enter, fill out this form by midnight July 4th. One entry per person, US residents, 13 years of age or older. Winners will be contacted by email and announced on this site.


Be sure to also check out Penguin’s 13RW Project, a place for fans of Thirteen Reasons Why to share their thoughts and stories relating to the book, and to view what other readers from all across the country have shared. Some share mini-reviews, some videos, some photos. Julia S. from Bon Ami, Texas wrote “You can learn from everything in this world, but I’ve got to say, what I got out of this book…amazing. People don’t often enough sit down and think about how we touch each other’s lives– in beautiful and destructive ways.” If you’ve read the book, we encourage you to add your thoughts to the site!

Thanks to Penguin and Big Honcho Media for inviting us to help celebrate the paperback release for Thirteen Reasons Why and the 13RW Project! And thanks to Jay Asher for writing one of our absolute favorite YA novels!

June is looking pretty good

1 Jun

June is a good good month. We’ll be celebrating our blogoversary in late June, we might (fingers crossed) be seeing some of you at ALA, and Em is celebrating her birthday (and Nora a belated birthday party). Add to that an impressive selection of enticing YA book releases and we’ve got one special month! Here’s a sampling of the upcoming titles that we’re excited about (some celebrating their release today – enjoy it!):

Spoiled by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
Anticipated release date: 6.1.11 Poppy

    The Fug Girls’ YA debut Spoiled sounds fabulous – a nice mix of character and guilty pleasure (oh fashion, hollywood, rags to riches, secret half-sisters). Currently reading this one and enjoying it so far!

She Loves You, She Loves You Not… by Julie Anne Peters
Anticipated release date: 6.1.11 Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

    Julie Anne Peters is a great writer and it’s always nice to have more LGBTQ characters on the YA shelves. Plus it’s always interesting when a character experiences such drastic change – in this case a sudden move away from everyone and everything she knows.


Don’t Stop Now by Julie Halpern
Anticipated release date: 6.7.11 Feiwel & Friends

    Lil hits the road with her best friend who she’s been crushing on since they first met. Mix in the mystery of a missing friend, possible fake kidnapping, 80s movie references, and quirky stops along the way, and you’ve got one fun book. About half way through this one and excited for more!

Blood Red Road by Moira Young
Anticipated release date: 6.7.11 Margaret K. McElderry

    Bloggers we believe in have been reading this one and raving about it. It’s dystopian, sounds like it has a strong female protagonist, and Publisher’s Weekly’s review said the narrative voice has a Cormac McCarthy vibe. All this and more makes it sounds like a strong contender for books we both love.


Level Up by Gene Luen Yang and Thien Pham
Anticipated release date: 6.7.11 First Second

    Em just read Level Up last night in one sitting and laughed out loud and got a little teary eyed and loved every minute of it. The basic premise is family expectations of grandeur versus doing what one loves (and if/how those two can intersect). Or in other words: video games vs. med school. There are also cute little angels trying to keep our character on the path to his destiny by doing the dishes and making flash cards and stalking him (maybe that last bit isn’t so helpful).

Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn’t Have) by Sarah Mlynowski
Anticipated release date: 6.7.11 HarperTeen (EDIT: had to fix the release date – it comes out sooner than I thought!!!!!)

    “2 girls + 3 guys + 1 house – parents = 10 things April and her friends did that they (definitely, maybe, probably) shouldn’t have.” (from official product description) I hate math, but I love that equation. Sarah Mlynowski joined Rachel Cohn and David Levithan this past year at an author reading I attended and her energy and story-telling convinced me that anything she writes will be a real fun time. Plus crazy times = good times and this seems like a nice, light summer read.

Hourglass by Myra McEntire
Anticipated release date: 6.14.11 Egmont USA

    Ghosts, time travel, and a whole lot of originality – at least from what we’ve heard. Hoping to start this one next week!


Imaginary Girls by Nova Ren Suma
Anticipated release date: 6.14.11 Dutton Juvenile

    Have heard the words “love” and “Printz” from multiple people when talking about this upcoming title. Sisterhood, secrets, and drama. A beautiful cover doesn’t hurt either.

Paper Covers Rock by Jenny Hubbard
Anticipated release date: 6.14.11 Delacorte Books for Young Readers

    Boarding school boys caught in a web of lies around the drowning of a classmate and a teacher who suspects something’s up. I’m sensing a little Dead Poet’s Society and Killing Mr. Griffin vibe from this one.

Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter
Anticipated release date: 6.21.11 Hyperion Book CH

    Is anyone not looking forward to the second Heist Society novel? Heist Society was a surprise favorite for me in 2010 and I’m excited to see what happens next with Kat and crew.


Withering Tights by Louise Rennison
Anticipated release date: 6.28.11 HarperTeen

    Georgia Nicholson’s cousin Talullah takes center stage in this new series from Louise Rennison. Nora loves Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging and Em is embarrassed to admit that she has never read it (what?!). Theater camp is always funny and there is snogging and moors (who can resist a moor or snogging for that matter?)

What June releases are you most excited to read?

Kick Ass Girls and Feminist Boys

26 Oct

Today Ms. Magazine‘s Fall 2010 issue hits the newsstands with an article by Jessica Stites called “Kick-Ass Girls & Feminist Boys: Young Adult Fiction Offers Fabulous Fantasies of How the World Should Be”. Stites refers to the books that “offer refuge or escape” from the all-to-common, “ill-fitting and maddening” gender roles, as “click lit” (i.e. books that offer that “click! moment, when we realize the problem’s not us, it’s society, and we’re not alone”). The article recognizes the growing popularity of YA both with readers and with publishers (market growth during a recession? not bad, right?). Anyway, here are our initial reactions to the article. Feel free to check out the magazine and see for yourself!

Nora: Overall the article addresses some great points, such as the fact that girls want to read about cool girls, and that a lot of YA fiction deals with real and relatable feminist protagonists.  The author even manages to stay away from Twilight-bashing (a personal pet peeve).  A slight issue is that a lot of the book examples given in the article are either cross-over (meaning a book for adults, but marketed as also appealing to teens) or children’s literature.  On the one hand this shows how fluid YA is, but on the other it is kind of confusing for someone who knows little to nothing about the genre.  I mean, I really can’t hate on anything that praises The Mists of Avalon, which by the way, totally stands the test of time and is worth a reread.  Please don’t tell me you never read it, because that is just too sad.

So anyway, this article is worth a read and I totally need to check out The Shadow Speaker by Nnedi Okorafor.  Can I just point out that I read every other book mentioned in the article?  Oh wait, not Dealing With Dragons.  And I got through like 50 pages of Annie On My Mind.  So maybe not.  Anyway, how about you Em? 

Em: I know you asked me not to tell you, but no, I have not read Mists of Avalon. It never even crossed my radar until they made a mini-series when I was in college and it was on TNT, so I didn’t really take it seriously. Guess I should check it out (the book, I mean)! Anyway, my first reaction to the Fall 2010 Issue was honestly “Oooh! New Poems By Alice Walker!” (see cover). I love her. Upon reading the article, I had a similar reaction to you, Nora. It seemed like many of these titles would not necessarily be found in the YA section of the library or bookstore and it made me question those that I wasn’t aware of (e.g. Dealing With Dragons – middle grade or YA? seems our library system sometimes shelves it with the middle grade books and sometimes in the YA section). But the truth is, I don’t just read YA (and neither do all teens), so a good feminist book suggestion is always fine with me!

Some of the books mentioned in the article that have just moved way up my reading list are Annie on My Mind, The Knife of Never Letting Go, and The Shadow Speaker. Annie on My Mind was recently suggested to me by an LGBT former student (who I also happened to have babysat for during college) who answered my request for LGBT titles that were meaningful to them as a young reader. I’m glad to see from the article that there is an updated cover for this title. I checked a copy out from the library and had to send it back because the original cover design and cover copy just felt too 1980s after school special for me. I was also happy to see Persepolis make the list, even though it is generally classified as adult fiction (graphic novels are as tough to classify as YA). One that I would generally classify as a middle grade reader that made the list is the amazing Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. I read this title as an adult because growing up I thought it was all about God and as a non-religious youth, assumed that it was probably not for me. One thing I always wonder about this one, is if there could be an updated version which simply replaces the belted feminine products – I wonder if this aspect of the story is confusing to today’s young women going through puberty. I love how this dates the piece (as do my memories of my friends chanting “I must, I must, I must increase my bust”), but I also wonder if it dates it in a way where it loses some of its power with supporting young women.

It is interesting to see how many of these titles would be classified as speculative fiction. Perhaps it’s because, as Libero Della Piana wrote in Colorlines Magazine (Dec. 22, 2002), “the genre allows one to explore other worlds where the ‘laws’ we currently live under, both social and physical, can be challenged or replaced by the creations of the imagination.” He was writing with regards to the potential of speculative fiction as a medium of expression for black writers in particular, but it does seem translatable to feminist writers as well. Speaking of speculative fiction, black writers, and feminist writers, I was happy to see Octavia Butler’s work (Parable of the Sower – which is horrifying dystopian lit and incredibly awesome) in the goodreads list that Stites created to allow readers to vote for their choices of the Best Feminist Young Adult Books. The list is immensely hard for me to vote in because my initial choices are all books that I would not classify as YA, but I want to support them for being some of the best books out there. What’s a YA blogger to do?!

I also ventured to the Ms. Magazine blog where there is a post by Stites called How I Picked 10 Best Feminist Teen Books of All Time. It’s a pretty interesting companion to the magazine article and it mentions Miss Marple and our friends from Bridge to Terabithia, so had me feeling right at home. I also love that she includes a link to the Amelia Bloomer Project, which is my go-to feminist reading list each year. She also raises some interesting questions about YA in the blog – for instance, why are books about young women almost always classified as YA whereas books about young men are considered more suitable/sellable to adults? And should we be concerned that books about young women are only deemed worthy of the adult literature stamp of approval when the character’s sexual abuse is deemed too brutal for young audiences?

Earlier this week, another of our favorite feminist magazines posted on their blog about YA novels featuring trans teens. We have to admit, it has been a good week for YA and feminist lit! Thanks to Ms. Magazine for sending the article preview our way and to Jessica Stites for exploring the amazing world of feminist YA! Be sure to check out the article in the Fall Issue (on newsstands today) and the Ms. Magazine blog post about the process of coming up with Stites’ top ten picks (and the several other titles she sneaked into the article – well played).

YALSA announces Teens’ Top Ten 2010!

18 Oct


After tallying over 8,000 votes from teens, the YALSA Teens’ Top Ten for 2010 have been announced! The Teens’ Top Ten are nominated by and voted for by teens. No adults allowed. It was so hard to not be able to vote! It’s slightly confusing that the 2010 Top Ten are actually titles from 2009, but that is how it goes! Here they are:

  • Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
  • City of Glass by Cassandra Clare
  • Heist Society by Ally Carter
  • Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
  • Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
  • Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
  • Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
  • If I Stay by Gayle Forman
  • Fire by Kristin Cashore
  • Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

So what do you think of the list? Anyone notice that the winning titles are all authored by women? And primarily, if not exclusively, by white women? Anyone else notice the predominance of speculative fiction? Which of the winning titles do you most want to read? What was your favorite 2009 release?

Author Adele Griffin on Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War

30 Sep

“You see, Carter, people are two things: greedy and cruel. So we have a perfect set up here. The greed part—a kid pays a buck for a chance to win a hundred. Plus fifty boxes of chocolates. The cruel part—watching two guys hitting each other, maybe hurting each other, while they’re safe in the bleachers. That’s why it works, Carter, because we’re all bastards.”
–Archie Costello, The Chocolate War

It has been over thirty-five years since Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War was published—a book that holds a third place position in the American Library Association’s Most Banned Books of this past decade. Wow. Who knew. (Me, I didn’t, until I looked up the list.) So what’s the big deal about this book, one of my own top three most beloved YA novels of all time? Aside from its violence, strong language, and the sacrilege of corrupt priests who make tactic agreements with their most powerful students in order to enforce Groupthink? Well, sure. There’s that. But I believe what really makes Cormier’s The Chocolate War the Oh-No-He-Didn’t book of Time Unending is its philosophical position that human nature is an inexorably dark place, and that the power of the mob is most dangerous when it is turned onto the spectacle of suffering. It’s a grim summation, diametrically opposed to the viewpoint most notably expressed by Anne Frank’s earnest (if ironic) belief that: “Despite everything, I believe that people really are good at heart.”

When I first read this book, many years ago, I, too, was attending a small Catholic school very close to Cormier’s Leominster, Massachusetts. At the time, most of the book’s so-called shockers glanced off me. I wasn’t undone by the intellectual, bullying Archie—my school had its share of brutal manipulators. And I’d had my run-ins with real-live meanie nuns. For me, the most brilliant angle of Cormier’s multi-faceted, near-perfect gem of a YA was the fact that no matter how chaotic, how insufferable Jerry Renault’s life became, he still had. To go. To school. Had to show up and endure whatever fresh pain and humiliation lay in store for him. Rain or shine, in sickness or in health, Jerry Renault had to adapt a stance, and from that stance, just deal. And Cormier knew that like no other author I had ever read before.

The unique conundrum of the Young Adult novel, the one unalterable plot point of the genre, is that you can’t quit high school. As in: you can’t be promoted or fired or relocated or get saved by a Sabbatical, or even—except in the most rare of instances—just take a semester off. In order to survive, you need to figure out your strongest sense of self, and kick that self out the door into another day, every single day, until you get your mortarboard.

In my own book, The Julian Game, where the online bullies are anonymous and home has ceased to be a respite from the daily grind, my protagonist, Raye, is in the same predicament, and that mortarboard feels very far away, indeed. But it would be impossible for me to write a YA novel about betrayal, revenge, violence, bullies, self-reliance, and the stance of the Peaceful Warrior without looking at the path Cormier has forged. While he chose a rough setting in which to place his diamond, and while the entire story unfolds without a single text message or Google search, any teen today could slip inside Jerry’s skin and know that it fits as easily and protects as thinly in 2010 as it did in 1974. It is the book’s relevance, above all, that continues to dazzle us, not just from the summit of any given Banned Books list, but from the apex of literary excellence.

– Adele Griffin, September 28th, 2010, Banned Books Week

Adele Griffin is a critically acclaimed author of novels for children and young adults. Be sure to check out Adele’s beautiful new website, the quirky-fun site for The Julian Game, and of course her novels for young adults! Thank you for sharing with us!


Adele’s rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Author: Robert Cormier
Publisher: Pantheon (1974)

Banned Books Film Festival

27 Sep

Be sure to check out Em’s guest post over at Mindful Musings’ Movie Cast Monday! Em has been tirelessly watching movies adapted from frequently challenged and banned books and has curated a Banned Books Week Film Festival you can watch in your very own home! Highlights from the children’s room to the adult shelves include movies based on Maurice Sendak’s In The Night Kitchen, Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia, Stephen King’s Carrie, and Alice Walker’s The Color Purple.