Sunday, December 30, 2012

Best Unputdownable Teen Books of 2012


This year I discovered five engrossing, absorbing, unputdownable books. I found it hard to let these books out of my sight while I was reading them. They are just that good. The following selections are some of the best YA releases of 2012, in my humble opinion.


Grave Mercy: Robin LaFevers
Released April 3, 2012
LaFevers’ debut novel mixes fantasy, magic and history in a story about Ismae, a girl assassin. Trained in a remote convent in the Middle Ages, she’s thrown into Brittany’s royal court to help discover an enemy saboteur. Romance spikes with Duval, the Duchess’ brother with whom Ismae stays. Their rough-and-tumble yet realistic relationship is an intriguing addition. Even though it’s a long read (over 500 pages!), I engulfed it.

 
Insurgent: Veronica Roth
Released May 1, 2012
Insurgent is the sequel to Divergent, both praise-worthy books. Tris is immersed in a war between factions in a dystopian Chicago. After unimaginable loss, she has only her sometimes-estranged boyfriend for company as they faction-hop. As they dive deeper into the history of their society, the action increases and the mystery heightens, ending with a cliffhanger that leaves me craving the final book with an unnatural thirst.

 
Bitterblue: Kristin Cashore
Released May 1, 2012
Cashore impressed me with Graceling and Fire but I was skeptical after reading Bitterblue’s description. However, a few pages into the book my skepticism flew into the spring air and the book became glued to my hand. Bitterblue is strong yet stubborn and her story is a fantasy/mystery/epic tale that brings back some of my favorite characters from the earlier companion novels.

 
Throne of Glass: Sarah J Maas
Released August 7, 2012

Maas is a debut author with a super-sized fan following, which is how Throne of Glass appeared on my radar. It takes place in a fantasy world surrounding the life of a young assassin, Celeana. She is secretive, strong and serene. To win her freedom, she’s thrown into a battle against thieves and military men to become the King’s Assassin. Plus an understated love triangle, and I found this book enthralling.



Unwholly: Neal Shusterman
Released August 28, 2012
It was a tortuous wait from the release of Unwind in 2007 until Unwholly appeared on the shelf, especially since I knew it would be awesome. Even though Unwind appeared to end somewhat happily, its' sequel opens with Conner, Risa and Lev in situations that are not even close to ideal. Three new characters are thrown into the mix, which leads to some mouth-dropping complications. Plus the spine-tingling twists and the non-stop action, and Unwholly was unputdownable.



Happy New Year! Can’t wait to see what 2013 will bring, especially in the YA world!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

My Favorite YA Things


As a YA writer and reader, there are some websites that I rely upon and even frequent daily. These sites have fun, interesting posts or expansive information or even both. Today, as I prepare to travel north for Christmas, I thought I’d share my favorite YA resources. I hope you find them worthwhile and please feel free to share your own favorite resources in the comments.


YA Stands
This site addresses YA specific and current issues. I get each post in my e-mail and I’ve grown quite fond of the informality of each post. It’s easy to read in the mornings when my brain isn’t fully functional. Also, there are multiple contributors which keeps it interesting and informative.   


YA Highway’s Publishing Road Map
This road map has helpful information on all aspects of the publishing journey. I was surprised and delighted at how expansive the site is. I’ve already explored a good portion of the links, and recommend the Setting and World Building list—it’s been useful to me already!


Nova Ren Suma’s Blog
Distraction 99 is a blissful distraction. I enjoy reading Nova’s blog not only because she discusses her writing life and habits but because she dives into other authors’ thoughts in her writer-to-writer interviews. Her viewpoint in these interviews is one that only a published author can provide and I find it unique and helpful.


Teen Reads’ Coming Soon section
If you are looking for new upcoming YA books, I would suggest visiting this link. It’s all-encompassing and the first site I click on to find out what’s coming soon in the YA world.


Safe travels and happy holidays!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Putting the YA in Holiday


When the weather begins to chill and the nights are longer than the days, it’s something spectacular to hide under a fuzzy blanket and curl up with a good book. While most of the time I’ll read my normal fantasy or realistic YA fare, I also enjoy picking up a holiday-themed book every winter.
I prefer my holiday YA fiction to be comforting and full of snow drifts and hot chocolate. There should be mistletoe, school cancellations and a barrage of snowflakes. Most of all, there should be new and cozy romances flourished by firesides in coffee shops or in the stacks of chilly libraries. The magic may have faded for these too-old-for-Santa teens, but I enjoy when they discover a new meaning in the holidays.  
As an oldest child, the meaning of Christmas for me was making sure my younger brothers still believed. On Christmas Eve, they would leave my grandparents’ house for church with my parents. I would stay behind with my grandpa and grandma to set presents under the tree. There would be endless boxes that radiated farther than the hue of the lights that adorned the tree. As a preteen, I knew Santa was a legend but I loved helping bring that legend to life for my brothers. When we returned from church, they would burst into my grandparent’s living room. The joy and surprise on their faces was enough magic for me.
Now we’re all grown and Christmas means taking time from our busy lives and spending the holiday together. The tree seems less full, now that the big boxes of Fisher Price and Lego toys have been replaced by DVDs, video games and books, but I know the magic is still there. I hope to continue bringing the holiday magic to life through tradition and fun for years to come.
If you are looking to cozy up during the holidays and experience the magic in a holiday or winter themed YA book, then I suggest grabbing some hot chocolate and a few cookies and climbing into a comfy chair with one of these:

Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson & Lauren Myracle
Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
Mistletoe by Aimee Friedman, Hailey Abbott, Nina Malkin & Melissa De La Cruz
Wintertown by Stephen Emond


Let the magic abound through snow forts and colorful lights. Let it warm your home and sparkle on the darkest days. Have a happy holiday season!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Most Anticipated Teen Books: Winter 2013


Here are seven awesome novels that I'm looking forward to reading in these dark, shivering winter months. I hope that you find something intriguing in this mix of fantasical, mysterious, realistic and revolutionary YA fiction.


December 11
 
Falling Kingdoms- Morgan Rhodes

What it’s about:
Peace has reigned for centuries in this land where magic has been forgotten. Now, three kingdoms grapple for power and Cleo, Jonas, Lucia and Magnus find their fates intertwined. Only one thing is certain in the midst of the unrest: kingdoms will fall.

Why I’m excited:
Because I discovered this debut on a bookmark hidden in another new teen release. The cover called to me and I only grew more eager after reading the description. This book is right up my alley. Impending war in a fantasy world with a mix of young characters? It basically screams “Jamie!” and I’m so ready for it to be released in two days!


December 18

The Darkest Minds- Alexandra Bracken

What it’s about:
Ruby is one of the dangerous ones. On her tenth birthday, something about her changed, which got her sent to a government “rehabilitation camp”. Six years later, she has emerged from the camp alive but with frightening abilities she can’t control. On the run with others who have escaped, Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice.

Why I’m excited:
Because the story sounds like it begins in a world we know and understand, then transforms when Ruby awakens with dark powers. The mystique makes me want to know what she is capable of and what happens to her. Plus the idea that the government is in on some kind of conspiracy involving dark powers? Yeah, I’ll be picking this one up soon.


January 8

Shadowlands- Kate Brian

What it’s about:
Rory survived an attack from a serial killer who’s now on the loose, so Rory, her sister Darcy and their father must enter the witness protection program. Rory and Darcy can barely stand each other but when the settle into their new home on a picturesque vacation island, it might be the fresh start they need. Until one of their new friends goes missing. Has the infamous serial killer found them?

Why I’m excited:
Because Kate Brian is branching out from the Private series in a new and intriguing way. It’s a murder mystery where Rory is seemingly being hunted by a known serial killer who has attacked her in the past. Plus the setting, a gorgeous beach town/island called Juniper Landing sounds like a dream. I’ll be happy to dive into this dark and mysterious story in the new year.


Just One Day- Gayle Forman

What it’s about:
American LuLu meets Willem, a Dutch actor, at an underground performance of Twelfth Night in England. After just one day together, there is an undeniable spark which bursts into a flame. The next morning, she wakes in Paris to find that Willem has left. Over the next year, LuLu travels on a journey to come to terms with her almost-true-love in an attempt to break free.

Why I’m excited:
Because Gayle Forman is a master of realistic fiction that takes place in this world but has a magic that is all its own. The premise of this novel sounds fantastic and I want to take this journey of discovery with LuLu, or Allyson as her passport reads. Plus, Forman is working on a companion novel about Willem’s journey (called Just One Year). I cannot wait to read the pair!


January 29

Prodigy- Marie Lu

What it’s about:
In this highly anticipated sequel to Legend, June and Day’s story picks up seven days after their escape from LA and the Republic. Day is believed to be dead by those they left behind, but June is now the Republic’s most wanted traitor. Injured and desperate, they turn to the Patriots, a rebel group who fights against the Republic. Can the pair trust their new alliance, or will they just be pawns in the unrelenting political games?

Why I’m excited:
Because I flew through Legend, and I have high expectations for its sequel. June and Day’s world is an expertly crafted dystopian adventure and I’m excited to see where their journey goes once they leave LA and are alone together. I’m expecting a Mockingjay-like twist in that both the Republic and the Patriots are proven to be essentially evil, but I cannot phantom the complications that will follow.


February 12

Out of the Easy- Ruta Sepetys

What it’s about:
Transporting back to 1950 and the French Quarter of New Orleans, Sepetys introduces Josie, a daughter of a brothel prostitute. Josie wants more out of life and devises a plan to leave the Big Easy. But a mysterious death leaves her entangled in a police investigation where her allegiances will be challenged. There’s a mysterious motorcycle boy and a best friend (who’s a boy) that works at a bookstore. Caught between the dream of an elite college and a clandestine underworld, Josie has to sort through the complications before she can escape.

Why I’m excited:
Because Ruta Sepetys proved herself to be a master of historical fiction in Between Shades of Gray. This story takes place in another decade in another place, but it still has the same allure of a magical city and a complicated yet intriguing story of a young girl. New Orleans will be a new literary adventure for me, so I’m excited to pick this one up come February.


March 12

Code- Kathy & Brendan Reichs

What it’s about:
Tory Brennan, niece of renowned forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan, gained a mysterious, viral power in her first adventure along with her three friends. In their second adventure, they uncover buried pirate treasure and now the stage is set for their third adventure in Code. When they find a geocache with clues from the “Gamemaster,” it leads to a fake bomb and a wicked promise of a real one.

Why I’m excited:
Because I love Temperance and Tory Brennan. Mostly I’m a fan of Bones, but I’ve engulfed the first two books in this series with an unhealthy vigor. I enjoy that Tory is a tomboy and a science lover, separating herself from most characters that I stumble across in teen fiction. And I love that these are classic mysteries written by a best-selling adult mystery author.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Flashback Reviews: Best of 2010

For every book I read, I write a review. So far I’ve filled one journal and am working my way through another. It helps me keep track of what I’ve read, what I’ve loved and what I could have lived without. Every now and then, I flip through past reviews and reminiscence about the great teen novels that I’ve read over the past few years.


What I Saw and How I Lied – Judy Blundell
(Read April 2010)

Immediately, I was struck by the clear, creative descriptions that opened this novel. They easily transported me back to 1947 Brooklyn and then Palm Beach. I knew very early on that this was a great book. Blundell has a unique style and I loved how she wrote Evie, an innocent young girl that just wanted to be like her mother. Realizing truths that had previously been hidden, Evie took matters into her own hands and became a truly good woman through the course of this novel. Usually foreshadowing irks me, but Blundell used the technique wonderfully, setting up the mysterious, troubling turn of events with an expert hand. I loved how both messages (that I perceived) were present throughout the book and were understood in the end.
 

The Prince of Mist – Carlos Ruiz Zafón
(Read June 2010)

This was a simple yet magical story. Even though Zafón never told the reader where or when this story took place, I interpreted that it happened in an English coastal town during World War II. Though, he did hint at the setting by making a spider-killing task into a Holocaust metaphor. This novel was an easy but intelligent read, which were the primary reasons why I loved it. There was an innocence to Max, Alicia and Roland and their adventures which was amazing. Yet, Zafón didn’t treat the YA reader as a child since the back story was intricate and mysterious and played well into the character’s current world. I hope Zafón expands his YA repertoire with another entrancing YA read.


Adios, Nirvana – Conrad Wesselhoeft
(Read November 2010)

This was the best teen book I’ve read since “All Unquiet Things” by Anna Jarzab nearly a year ago and it was definitely one of the best teen books of 2010. The main character, Jonathon’s thoughts were written with an original flare and the descriptions were creative beyond belief. Wesselhoeft is a debut author who was inspired by his son and friends jamming on guitars and filling his house with laughter and crumbs. That was how he realistically created Jonathon, a troubled guitar-playing, poetry-writing, refusing-sleep boy who lost his twin brother eight months previous. Surprisingly emotion-ridden, this journey involved an aging World War II veteran, a toppling Velcro Kong, a Rickenbacker 366 and quotations from Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass.” I loved the references, the messages and the great surprise in reading a super fresh line that really made me think and made me wish I had written it at the same time.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Lessons from a Month of Writing

For the past 25 days, I’ve been engrossed in NaNoWriMo. I’m 42242 words into my manuscript. That means I’m 7758 words from being a NaNo winner! Here is what I’ve learned so far:


Plan ahead
To write a novel in a month, I had to be prepared starting Day 1. In October, I wrote a six page outline of my story. It wasn’t important that I stuck to this outline, but it was necessary that it existed if I needed something to fall back on. I wrote out character descriptions, came up with names and created settings from the ground up. I even bought poster board and drew a map of my fantasy world. I prepared the building blocks of my story (in a handy, travel-ready binder) so when November came, I could just write.
 
Don’t (over) think, just write
I stressed over word choice too many times this month. I let myself think over the word “walk” or “turn” or “like” for a few minutes before just typing it anyway so I could get on with the story. I forced myself to type out the simple, overused word so I wouldn’t get stuck. And I did it with this thought in mind: I can and will change it later, in edits. I realized that to write 2000 words a day, I couldn’t over think one or five or a dozen words, or I would never get anywhere. I just had to write.
 

Write even if you don’t want to
So many mornings I woke up and didn’t want to write. I wanted to go back to bed, hide under the covers or turn on the Today Show and zone out to Matt Lauer. Some days I woke up with a headache. Most days I had some excuse for why I shouldn’t write. But I had a goal to make, so I ignored the bed, the TV and the headaches. I put myself in front of my laptop (usually with the assistance of coffee) and wrote. If I hadn’t forced myself out of bed in the 7 o’clock hour every day this month, I wouldn’t be close to my current word count. I didn’t need the extra sleep, I needed the extra words.


You can still have a life and write
In October, I thought that to write everyday meant I wouldn’t do anything besides write and work. Reading would go by the wayside. Boyfriend time would be limited. And I could forget about being caught up on my Hulu queue. But, surprisingly, I slowly realized it didn’t have to be that way. If I did work, then I wrote before or after and still had a few free hours in the evening. If it was a day off, I churned out 2000 words before 11AM then had the rest of the day to read a book, watch Castle, hang out with my boyfriend or work on my blog.


Conclusions
This November, I learned about my writing habit. I discovered that waking up at 7AM and going straight to the computer works for me. I discovered that writing is an effort I have to make; it isn’t just going to happen by itself. And I thankfully realized that my life will not stop if I start a daily writing habit. Life and writing can co-exist. And I plan to keep up that coexistence into December and 2013!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Owl Always Love Owls

A photo essay of—you guessed it—owls


While I’m in the deep, dark caverns of NaNoWriMo, I thought I’d share my fascination and slight OBSESSION with owls. My first inkling at the greatness of owls was of course Hedwig, the bird with personality who sacrificed herself for Harry Potter. (Plus, owls are just so cute!) I’ve become somewhat of a collector of awesome owl figurines. Here are some of the owls that adorn my apartment:

Hedwig: The Original Owl

Welcome to My Apartment Owl

Coffee Owl (He's had too much caffeine.)

Festive Owl!

Fridge Owl

Plate Owl

Owl Towel

Yes, that is my shower curtain. (It makes me happy in the morningtime.)

Oh, and there’s a Mockingjay.

He felt left out.
 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Why I’m Thankful for YA

This post has two inspirations:
 
1.       It’s the month of Thanksgiving, and I am thankful for the YA genre.

2.       Beth Revis’ awesome YA contest! She’s the author of the Across the Universe series, which is amazing. In a recent blog post, she challenged readers to write about why they love YA to gain entries to win a library of signed YA books.

I’m thankful for YA because the books are:
·         Action-Packed
                YA books get to the point. There’s not a lot of setting build-up or page after page of description/introduction. They dive right into the action and rarely let up. Sometimes I can barely keep up with all the twists and turns, and I love how novels like Insurgent by Veronica Roth and Unwholly by Neal Shusterman keep me on my toes. I adore how I’m always trying to guess what’s going to be thrown at the main character next and what they are going to do in response.
·         Boundary-Breaking
                Teen writers think outside the box. And the readers are an open-minded crowd who love super creative fantasy and every kind of paranormal that exists. There are an increasing number of diverse characters (though we still have a long way to go). Some teen books even address controversial issues such as bullying, sex, eating disorders, drugs, incest and suicide. Consider Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma and anything by Ellen Hopkins. The YA genre is breaking down boundaries, crashing open the box and talking about real issues.
·         Informative and Intriguing
                Even though teen books are usually considered more fun than educational, I do feel that venturing into the past and exploring history is informative and intriguing. I love books like Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak where history (alterative or otherwise) is a real character. When I read historical teen fiction, I feel like I’m learning something about that time period. My era of choice is WWII, which is why Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity is high on my to-read list.

Thanks to you for reading! (After all, it is the time of year to be thankful.) If you’re interested in entering Beth Revis’ contest, you can find more information on her blog. She is giving away a spectacular collection!

 

Please note: When I say that I believe the YA genre are these things, I am NOT saying that other genres are not these things. Every genre has its advantages!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Story of a Bookseller

(A fun, short something from a girl in the depths of NaNoWriMo)

At night, I’m a half-crazed, coffee-infused writer girl. During the day, I’m a bookseller. I know it’s not exactly a lucrative profession, but I do get to play with books every day. My life as a bookseller is defined by weekend shifts, odd customers and even odder questions. Oh, and hundreds of books in every size, shape, color and topic.
I help people find books when they only know the cover color. I don’t always succeed.
I read new, amazing picture books when I'm alone in the Kids section. I recently picked up The Quiet Book and The Christmas Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood and Renata Liwska, which are fantastic.

I browse new teen and young reader books, constantly adding to my to-read (Snicket and Oliver) and to-buy lists (Roth).
 
I will run my finger down the spine of Ally Condie’s Reached the night before it’s released.
Oh, yes.
 
I help people find the perfect book, whether for themselves or for them to give as a gift. It’s one of my favorite things! And I especially love it when they are interested in teen books. 
                           YOU MIGHT SAY:

“I really liked the Hunger Games.”
                OR
“I couldn’t put down Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater.”
                OR
 “I would like a teen book with dragons.”
                AND I’LL SAY:
                “Why don’t you follow me to the teen section? I’m sure we can find something you’ll love!"


 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Dear Teen Me


Dear Teen Me edited by Miranda Kenneally and E Kristin Anderson is a collection of advice written by over 70 YA authors to their teenage selves. Please check out the awesomeness here: http://dearteenme.com/. In honor of the publication of their anthology, I’ve written my own ‘Dear Teen Me’ and I encourage you to do the same.
 
Dear Teen Me:
I bet you thought that after college, the perfect job would just appear. I’m sorry to break it to you that is not the case. You currently work at a bookstore where you’ve worked for four years. You did have a stint at a vanity publisher, but you left that to move to Indianapolis. Your perfect or near-perfect or survivable job is still out there. It’s just proving elusive to find at the moment.
Also, just so you know, everything isn’t black and white. There are about fifty shades of gray (you’ll get this reference in time, but please don’t jump on that bandwagon.) There is no perfect answer. Sometimes there isn’t even a right answer. More often than not, there are twenty answers and you have to dive into the ocean to find a suitable one. And you don’t get goggles.
Okay, maybe I’m being a bit dramatic. But it is better that you are realistic. I want you to know that life will be tough. Not near-starvation, life-threatening tough, but it won’t be easy.

There are so many things I wish I could tell you. Life-changing things, but somehow those are not easy to put into words. The experiences will have to speak for themselves, when the time comes.
Me at age 15
But here are a few  tips that might help you over the next ten years:
·       Always give the right-of-way when driving. If you let the other person go first, you might grumble a bit but you won’t feel guilty for hours about cutting someone off.
·       Stop rushing. Yes, you can walk fast and you can work fast. You might end up with more time in the end, but you could also end up with more work and more fatigue.
·       Exercise. I know you don’t want to. Do it anyway.
·       Wear a bikini. Wear flip-flops. Wear shorts. Don’t be self-conscious of your feet, legs or body. You’ve only gained a little weight since high school but you are still an average American (size wise). So wear what you want, without wearing too little.
·      Talk to people. Stop being afraid of being outgoing. Share something about yourself, and you’ll learn something in return. Maybe you’ll even make a new friend.
·      At one point, in third grade, you wanted to be a writer. (Hopefully you remember this. If not, think about Mrs. Decker’s class and the story about a unicorn.) There were so many dreams that you’ve had since then (architect, journalist, ambassador), but now you’re back to writer. So please write. Write now.
You might scoff at this. You’ve always been a little stubborn, and not great about taking advice. But at least promise me that you will keep these notions in the back of your fifteen year-old mind. Someday they might come in handy.

-- Jamie, 2012

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Why I’m Struggling to Commit to NaNoWriMo


T Minus 10 Days to NaNoWriMo. I intend to participate this year, but I haven’t yet declared my commitment. Because I’m afraid.
Last year, I fell into NaNoWriMo when my manager/friend convinced me to go to a writing group. It turned out to be a NaNoWriMo writing group. In the two hours I was there, I convinced myself that I should give it a shot, even jotting down some ideas. However, I wasn’t driven, organized or prepared at all.
When I got a second job a week before November (and went from working 35 hours to 50 hours a week), the NaNoWriMo idea flew out the window into the chilly autumn air. Having two jobs was an excuse, and I took it.
Now October has come again and NaNoWriMo is approaching (again). I’m still hesitant to commit. Because I will likely fail. The fear of failure is using my writing soul as its squeeze toy. But my fear is based on an unsettling truth. My best week of writing has produced 3000 words. To be a NaNoWriMo winner, I have to average 12000 words per week (to meet the goal of 50000 words in 30 days.) That’s a 400% improvement. Can I do it?
Can I, for the first time, make a solid commitment to a month long writing lifestyle and meet a word count goal and end with a rough, unedited, probably horrendous draft?
In two weeks, I’ll know. Because if I can’t manage to write at least 10000 words in the first week, it’s hard to recover from (or so I hear). In the meantime, I’ll organize and outline and plan scenes and flesh out characters and imagine settings. I’ll try to prepare myself.
Ten days until November.
Ten days until NaNoWriMo.
Ten days until the writing blitz of my life.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Teen Books-to-Movies 2013 & Beyond


With the teen book-to-movie industry grossing billions of dollars over the past decade, film rights to a new teen book are a hot commodity. Think Harry Potter, Twilight, Hunger Games. Even Princess Diaries, Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Everyone is vying for the next Hunger Games-like phenomenon movie release, so a lot of the new and great teen books have been snagged up. A majority of these will not make it to the theaters due writing, casting or development issues. However, here are some movies based on amazing teen books that will be coming soon.


Beautiful CreaturesWrong?
Release date: February 13, 2013                                      Status: Post-Production

Beautiful Creatures takes place in a supernatural South and features Lena, a girl with a secret, and Ethan, whose desire to leave is replaced by a connection to Lena. Written by Kami Garcia and Margaret Shohl, the fourth book in the series, Beautiful Redemption, is coming October 23.

Why I’m excited:

Because Beautiful Creatures is the best of paranormal romance (ghosts, witchcraft and love attractions) with a Southern flare, à la True Blood. The movie stars Viola Davis and Emma Thompson while introducing some fresh faces as the lead characters Lena (Alice Englert) and Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich).


How I Live Now
Release date: 2013                                                          Status: Post- Production

Daisy, a native New Yorker, moves to the English countryside to live with her cousins. They are alone when WWIII breaks out, and love blossoms as war bears down. 

Why I’m excited:

Because the dystopian yet timeless feel of the book will likely translate great on screen. I’m curious to see the movie depiction as it stars Saoirse Ronan (of Lovely Bones and City of Ember) and was filmed in England. Also, the author Meg Rosoff tweeted about visiting the set, which made me even more excited. However, I am fearful that the American release will be small or even nonexistent as it currently only lists a UK release date of 2013.


Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
Release date: August 23, 2013                                    Status: Filming

When Clary encounters Shadowhunters at a club in downtown Manhattan, she witnesses a murder and is thrust into an unknown supernatural world. This action-packed story has five sequels, with the last coming in March 2014.

Why I’m excited:

Because this is one of the first teen series that I loved. It made an impression on me, and helped me (along with many other books) fall in love with the genre. Plus, I love the buzz about the movie. The filming is followed closely by the fan girls, and the author Cassandra Clare will often provide updates through blog, tweet or tumble. The release will be one of those with a large, excited fan base who will show up to the theater in droves.           

 
Ender’s Game
Release Date: November 1, 2013                              Status: Post- Production
This science fiction novel is about Ender Wiggin, a boy who has been trained in Battle School to take on the Formics. Two previous attacks by these ant-like beings have left humankind devastated. This classic, written by Orson Scott Card, has many sequels and a companion series.

Why I’m excited:

Because this movie is a long-time coming. Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, Abigail Breslin star in this classic come-to-life. Also, Asa Butterield (Hugo in Hugo Cabret) will star as Ender, so an experienced young actor has taken on the role. This movie is bound to be one of the most anticipated releases of 2013.


Divergent
Release date: March 21, 2014                                     Status: Pre-Production
Living in a dystopian Chicago, Beatrice has to choose which faction of society she will join at 16. Her surprising choice leads her down an adventurous and dangerous path. Divergent is the first in a trilogy written by Veronica Roth, and the yet-to-be-named finale is set to be released next fall.

Why I’m excited:

Because it’s dystopian, and it takes place in a futuristic Chicago (a nearby city for me). Plus, I feel as though Divergent has the potential to be close to Hunger Games on the phenomenon scale. However, we will have to wait and see, as the release is a year and a half out. Hopefully our patience will pay off!  

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sex, Language & Violence in YA

Exploration of a Potential Rating System



Sometimes when I’m reading a YA book, I think: “Is this really appropriate for 13 year olds?” Most of the novels I read are appropriate for the older teen crowd, but sometimes I wonder about those just-out-of-middle-school kids who pick up the same book, and how they will respond to its content.   

It’s important to be true to the teenage experience. In today’s society, this experience can mean a variety of cuss words, sexual experiences and underage drinking.  Teens can make bad, controversial and even dangerous decisions because well, they’re teens. They are testing out the world, and the people they want to be.

Authors should be true to the teenage experience. But, some readers may not be ready to read all those experiences. So, how should parents and teens know what’s appropriate for them to read? Well, there’s been talk of a rating system, which would not be dissimilar to the MPAA (movie) ratings system. 

Although I believe that the idea of a rating system has good intentions in terms of informing parents what is appropriate for their teenage children, I fear the effects for the actual teens. A ratings system can be stark and inflexible. Instead of reviewing the book description to see if the book has potential educational purposes or a positive message, parents and teens might rely on the ratings system, and automatically discount anything that doesn’t meet their standards. I believe that reading the description, spoiler-free reviews and even skimming the first chapter are important qualifiers for if a book goes home with me.

Also, what would the perimeters of this rating system be? Is sex more offensive than language? Would the rating jump with each base (first, second, all the way) the character travels? And not all drug/alcohol references are the same (think marijuana vs. heroin or beer vs. absinthe). Can you rate violence in the written word? The MPAA Ratings board has been in place for decades, and has seen its share of controversy. It would take years to establish a similar system for use in the publishing industry, and it would be considerably more difficult.

I prefer to leave the selection of YA books to the teens that read them. However I understand that some parents like to have a hand in the selection. If a parent needs to provide approval to their young teen (or the occasional older teen) then I would advocate a parent touching the book, reading the book description or even reading the whole thing before their teen. No time or interest? Then at least check out Common Sense Media, a website that gives ratings but also descriptions, reasons and rating categories to help parents and teen select age-appropriate books.

In the end, I defer to personal experience. I read Judy Blume, Harry Potter, books with language and the occasional sex scene during my adolescent years. And I turned out just fine, if I do say so myself.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Revisiting Adolescence

A study of adult fiction authors that write YA


In honor of J.K. Rowling, arguably one of the best children’s authors of the past century, publishing an adult fiction book this past week, I’m examining the adult fiction authors that have ventured into the ever-growing YA genre.

One can’t speak of authors that have spidered their way from adult fiction to YA without first mentioning the feats of James Patterson. His series Maximum Ride and Witch & Wizard are mainstays of the bestseller list. Patterson’s son, Jack, did not have the inclination to read as a child. So Patterson was inspired to write Maximum Ride to encourage his own child to be passionate about reading. Now, with his website http://readkiddoread.com, Patterson “is on a mission to turn kids all across the nation into passionate literate and inspired readers.” Patterson recently finished the Maximum Ride series with the publication of Nevermore in August.

With one of the highest selling authors venturing into the YA market, this was bound to become a growing trend. Cory Doctorow, author of YA novels Little Brother, For the Win and the newly published Pirate Cinema, started in adult fiction. However, it appears as though he has now fully jumped ship to YA with Homeland, the sequel to Little Brother due in 2013. In a excerpt that appeared on TOR.com, Doctorow says, “Writing for young people is really exciting…  We all read for entertainment, no matter how old we are, but kids also read to find out how the world works.” For Doctorow, the transition to YA has meant a new way to write his characters. He realized that “young people live in a world characterized by intense drama, by choices wise and foolish and always brave.” Having his teen characters be drama-filled means that every event is monumental and the book is a natural page-turner. He says simply: “This is a book-plotter’s dream.”

Richelle Mead was well on her way through two series for adults when she began Vampire Academy, a YA series. In an interview with Book Wholesalers Inc, Mead admits her writing style isn’t too different between adult and YA books. Although she does recognize that “teen characters are so passionate with their emotions that it’s nice to let down all the barriers and just write." Mead’s third book in her Bloodlines series, another YA series, is due in February.

Mystery author Harlan Coben was inspired to dive into YA fiction by his four children. Myron Bolitar, the star of Coben’s adult fiction novel, Live Wire, has a 15 year old nephew, Mickey, with his own stories. Coben wanted to tell Mickey’s story and also write something for his children. His YA debut novel, Shelter, overlaps with the adult novel as a companion for the younger crowd. Coben is not the only author who has written a YA book which companions to an adult series. Kathy Reichs, with the help of her son Brendan, also falls into this category. Her Bones series stars forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan, and their Virals YA series stars niece Tory Brennan. Because of the number of teens and children that read the adult books and watch the TV show spinoff, Reichs and her son came up with the idea to venture into YA fiction. Since Virals, Seizure and the third book Code (due in 2013) have themes of science, it not only encourages teens to read and write, but to expand their knowledge of the sciences.

Other notable adult authors who have published adult fiction include Sherrilyn Kenyon, with her Chronicles of Nick series (also a spin-off from the adult series). Richard Paul Evans, Christian fiction author has recently published Rise of the Elgen, the second book in his Michael Vey series. Gena Showalter, a popular romance author, has ventured into teen with the Intertwined series and her recent release, Alice in Zombieland. Also, look for Jasper Fforde’s debut YA novel, The Last Dragonslayer, first published in the UK in 2010, which will be released in the US on October 2nd.


References:
Doctorow, Cory. “Context (excerpt),” TOR.com (2011). http://www.tor.com/stories/2011/10/context-excerpt?start=2
“Interview: Richelle Mead” Book Wholesalers, Inc (blog.) http://bwibooks.com/articles/richelle-mead.php
“James's Top Ten: Surefire Ways to Get Your Kids Reading,” http://readkiddoread.com/uploads/toptentips.php
Jerome, Richard. “James Patterson & Son Jack: Getting my Kid to Read,” People (2008). http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20238301,00.html
New Day Producers. “Bestselling Author Kathy Reichs' new novel + incredible life,” King5.com (2012). http://www.king5.com/new-day-northwest/Bestelling-Author-Kathy-Reichs-new-novel--incredible-life-169369316.html
Rohrbach, Erika. “Harlan Coben’s New Teen Hero,” Kirkus Reviews (2011). http://www.kirkusreviews.com/blog/young-adult/harlan-cobens-new-teen-hero/#continue_reading_post