‘World first’ virtual reality deal struck for YA trilogy

24 October 2016

From The Bookseller:

Interactive entertainment company To Play For has acquired virtual reality (VR) rights to the Fallow Trilogy by Amy Lankester-Owen, in the first deal for the books.

Sarah Such at Sarah Such Literary Agency called the deal “a world first, where a book series has been licensed specifically for a VR production”. To Play For will adapt the text to enable users to see directly into the minds of protagonists Lori and Rem.

. . . .

“Amy’s series has exactly the sort of characters and story worlds that we are looking to develop interactively. The books’ ‘mind-fusing’ is a perfect match for VR technology.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Are You There? It’s Me, Reality: Grit Returns to Young-Adult Novels

23 October 2016

From The New York Times:

Growing up on Long Island in the 1970s, I kept a copy of Judy Blume’s “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret,” in its classic lavender-tinted paperback edition, tucked away in a closet in my playroom with the vague intention of returning it to the local library, someday. As months went by and I read and reread the novel upward of a half-dozen times, it became clear that I would never give it up. I imagined thousands of dollars of fines accruing and ultimately an arrest followed by some period of detention. Wasn’t the involvement of law enforcement the only proper response to an abject refusal to relinquish something so precious?

. . . .

For women who grew up in the 1970s and early ’80s — nurtured in the fictions of Ms. Blume, Paul Zindel and Norma Klein among others, writers for whom an urbane brand of social realism was the only reasonable métier — the arrival of the “Twilight” franchise a decade ago, with its enormous success, signaled a gloomy period of regression for the young-adult novel.

. . . .

Now, though, the appetite for paranormal lunacy has abated, and issue-driven fiction set very much in a universe of urbanism’s chief concerns is having a renaissance. This week, “All American Boys,” a novel by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, an outgrowth of the Black Lives Matter movement, appears on The New York Times’s best-seller list for young-adult books. The story follows the beating of an innocent black child by a white police officer who thinks he has stolen a bag of chips.

In a similar vein, “The Hate U Give,” to be released early next year, chronicles the story of a 16-year-old prep-school girl who witnesses a police officer shoot her unarmed best friend. A movie version of the novel, by Angela Thomas, is already in progress. And right now, prominently displayed at Barnes & Noble in Downtown Brooklyn, is “Bright Lights, Dark Nights,” a novel about racial profiling set against the backdrop of drugs and violence.

. . . .

The recent upheavals in the economy stemming from the financial crisis, the rise of racial tensions and the increased animosity toward immigrants that the current election cycle has fed and exposed have arguably made this new catalog inevitable. The world has intruded in the lives of children in so many ugly ways. Even an amused tone does not preclude political currency. Consider the coming book “June the Sparrow and the Million-Dollar Penny,” which is meant for children between 9 and 12. In it, an orphaned girl who lives along Central Park discovers one day while she is sitting in Gray’s Papaya that her fortune has been decimated in a Ponzi scheme. She is then forced to move from an apartment in the Dakota to an actual Dakota (South).

Some of these books take place in unnamed cities so that they can feel universal to their readers. “The American Street,” highly anticipated and arriving this winter, is a novel set in Detroit but is meant to evoke Bushwick, Brooklyn, during the 1980s when it was a desolate and untamed place. The author, Ibi Zoboi, is Haitian and grew up in Bushwick, and she wanted to tell the story of an immigrant girl coming-of-age in a place where she must navigate a community plagued by crime and addiction.

Link to the rest at The New York Times

An Indies Introduce Q&A With Margot Harrison

1 September 2016

From The American Booksellers Association, an interview with author Margot Harrison:

Margot Harrison, an award-winning journalist, is the author of The Killer in Me (Disney-Hyperion), a Summer/Fall 2016 Indies Introduce debut for young adults and a Summer 2016 Kids’ Indie Next List pick.

Harrison’s debut novel follows teenage Nina, who, in her dreams, finds herself in the mind of a killer, knowing when and whom he plans to target next.

. . . .

Valerie Koehler: Nina’s nightmares are very realistic. As you wrote those parts, were you scared? How did you prepare for those scenes?

Margot Harrison: What scared me the most about writing the murder scenes was that they just sort of came. I didn’t really prepare; I just sat down and the images flowed into my mind, so it was almost like being Nina and seeing these terrible things in a dreaming or trance state. The scene that scares me the most is the one I revised the least, because it felt “right” on the first try. I think these scenes came so (unsettlingly) easy because I have what I call a “worst-case-scenario imagination.” When I hear about something disturbing, my mind immediately starts visualizing it cinematically, whether I choose to dwell on it or not. This happened with the crime that provided the initial idea for Killer — a crime in my community — and processing those images was one motive for my writing the book. When I actually sat down to write, I already had so many dark imaginings stored up that all I had to do was let them out.

VK: The scenes in the Southwest are vivid in their portrayal of the heat and barren landscape. Have you spent time in that area? How did you conduct your research?

MH: I have spent exactly two days in New Mexico — as part of a cross-country road trip, many years ago — and a bit more in Southern California. Much of [the novel’s] landscape comes from memory, imagination, movies and TV, and photos and videos I found online. (Sky City, or Acoma Pueblo, is the one landmark described in the book that I have seen firsthand.) On that one New Mexico visit, I was bowled over by the stark and alien (to me) quality of the landscape. Later, I watched Breaking Bad to get me through the long, gray Vermont winters and fell in love with the desert all over again. So, my memories and imaginings of the place are entangled with fiction. Someday soon, I hope to visit New Mexico and find out all the ways my depiction could have been stronger, because there are so many sensory details you can’t pick up from afar.

. . . .

VK: We appreciate that you have a local bookstore listed on your website for signed copies. What might you say to other authors to encourage them to visit independent bookstores?

MH: Independent bookstores are where you take the pulse of a community. I moved fairly often as a child, and each time we resettled, the first place we visited was the local bookstore. As long as there was an indie bookstore, we knew we’d feel welcomed and at home. Because of my job — I work for a newspaper, also locally owned — I got to know my town’s booksellers long before I became an author. I know they make a huge effort to get and keep local books on the shelves, to host authors, to serve a broad community of readers. Those same booksellers have been amazingly supportive of my book; my launch at Phoenix Books Burlington was the high point of this whole experience. Seeing my book on the shelf, I feel at home in indie bookstores in a whole new way.

Link to the rest at The American Booksellers Association

Here’s a link to Margot Harrison’s book.

To suggest a book written for young adults has any less merit than the classics is sheer snobbery

25 August 2016

From Tes:

Award-winning young adult fiction author, Juno Dawson writes a response to Joe Nutt’s 19 August article: Why young-adult fiction is a dangerous fantasy

I wouldn’t usually enter into internet debates, because they’re usually just a case of rudeness versus reason, but I didn’t want to let Joe Nutt’s earlier piece go unchallenged for a number of reasons.

Let’s first tackle the deeply offensive first paragraph in which he suggests modern young adult fiction is a mealy-mouthed liberal cardigan made up of transgender and autistic wool. Firstly, I read a lot of YA, and I can assure him the vast, vast majority of characters are still white, heterosexual and cisgender. This is something I’ve been campaigning against my whole career.

Moreover, don’t minority characters belong in fiction? Is that really what he wants to be saying? Real life features both transgender and autistic characters – so should books. Also, he does rather seem to be suggesting that readers (particularly young men) wouldn’t be interested in exploring characters dissimilar to them. I think that’s utter garbage. What is reading for if not to walk around in someone else’s shoes for a few days?

. . . .

I can’t even get into the “boys’ books” argument, because it assumes there is one way to be a boy. There is not. Boys like all kinds of books, featuring all kinds of characters. Some boys, unfortunately, hate reading. Some girls hate reading too. At school, I hated football. I still hate football. There isn’t a football, or indeed footballer, out there that would get me into football. Such is life.

. . . .

Modern YA provides a link from the safety of children’s fiction to the unpredictable content of adult novels. Sure, authors like Melvin Burgess, Kevin Brooks and Louise O’ Neill have explored some very adult issues, but the key word is “explored”. Younger readers are introduced to how awful it can be to be human within parameters.

Link to the rest at Tes and thanks to Nate for the tip.

British Humiliation and ‘The Cursed Child’

13 August 2016
Comments Off on British Humiliation and ‘The Cursed Child’

From The Millions:

In late July, a kind of spell fell over London’s West End as the latest iteration of the Harry Potter saga opened: a play that even the New York Times’ imperious theatre critic Ben Brantley deemed magical. “The Eighth Story.Nineteen Years Later,” as the tagline goes, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts 1 & 2 picks up where the last film left off, as Harry, Hermione, Ron, Ginny, Draco, and their receding hairlines drop their Hogwarts-bound offspring at Platform 9 ¾. Subsequently released as a script, The Cursed Child almost immediately broke book sales records, consumed, like the “Hamiltome,” by hundreds of thousands of fans who have no hope of ever finding their way inside the theater.

Whether you consider Harry Potter and The Cursed Child exhilarating fan service or terrible fanfic, its purpose is less to give us a “where are they now?” than to exhume the original series and examine the workings of the plot. The discovery of a contraband Time Turner by Albus Potter and Scorpio Malfoy — the sons of Harry and Draco — allows us to consider a Ronmione-free future; a scenario in which Potter and Malfoy offspring are sorted into Slytherin and develop a close, Drarry-like bond; and the cosmic importance of that gif of Neville Longbottom slaying Nagini. But beyond the threads of parental legacies and the heroism of friendship, going back in time to fiddle with the knobs teaches us one thing above all: the formative properties of humiliation.

. . . .

The Draco we see in a meddled-with future in which Voldemort lives is the same knob we know from the original book series, sans-humiliating clinch, rather than the soft, aggrieved “Sorry about your floor, Minerva” Draco introduced at the beginning of The Cursed Child — a character who appears to be a better father than Harry.

The common theme with all of these toggles is humiliation. To even get the Time Turner, located inside Minister of Magic Hermione Granger-Weasley’s office, young Albus Potter takes polyjuice to disguise himself as his Uncle Ron, and winds up kissing his aunt (“Let’s have another baby!”), as his disgusted friend Scorpio watches on.

Make no mistake, bollocksing things up in front of your peers and suffering a metaphysical death from embarrassment is a fundamental part of the British human condition, if one that is downplayed in the fan worship abroad. The parts of Harry Potter most glommed onto by Americans are patriotic concerns like honorable sacrifice, bravery in the face of an existential threat, unabashed declarations of love, and a fierce work ethic. But the heart of Harry Potter is really the Weasley’s burrow, that den of poor, gangly, knit-sweatered gingers, and perhaps most emphatically in the character of the endlessly put-upon Won-Won.

. . . .

The promise of English literature, and YA lit most especially, is that we shall rise like Phoenixes from the ashes of our latest mortification.

Link to the rest at The Millions

Most YA fiction is grown-up fiction in disguise

11 June 2016

From The Guardian:

The director of the children’s programme at the Edinburgh international book festival is worried. According to Janet Smythe: “YA fiction, the major publishing creation of the last decade, means many readers will never experience some wonderful writing.” Perhaps she’s right. Perhaps all those MAAs (middle-aged adults) and OAs do feel all those major publishing creations aren’t for them. But I’m not worried about adult-adults missing out on YA fiction in the slightest.

Figures from Nielsen show that 80% of YA literature is read by people over 25. It’s a pretty astonishing and, to me, disturbing statistic. It strongly suggests that something has gone horribly wrong in publishing. (And, possibly, with those readers …) Most people involved in publishing YA books would claim that these are intended to be read by teenagers. If this figure is correct, then they are missing that target. By decades. And that’s important, because many children stop reading when they reach the teenage years – especially boys. The world, it seems, suddenly holds pleasures greater than losing yourself in a great book. Could this be because the books that should belong to them, inhabiting their hearts and brains, are actually (consciously or subconsciously) directed at older readers?

A little history. It’s possible to trace back literature pitched explicitly at teenagers to Margaret Daly’s Seventeenth Summer, written in 1942. The term “young adult” was coined in the 1960s for the US library system, looking for a pigeonhole to place books like this and SE Hinton’s The Outsiders. From there the expansion of the term was slow but steady. Until the 1990s, children’s publishers tended to use “teen fiction” to describe books aimed at 11- to 14-year-olds, and YA for 14+. At some time in the noughties this shifted again, with YA taking over the whole teen spectrum.

And this change in terminology has been accompanied by a transformation in the nature of the books produced. Writers began to produce fiction that transcended a narrow age restriction. This includes some of the very finest living novelists, irrespective of genre – writers such as Meg Rosoff and Mal Peet and Patrick Ness. There are other, less well-known writers who are equally good. I have recently read books by Faye Bird, Jo Nadin and Martin Stewart that did everything I want great literature to do, to enthral and delight and ravish the imagination.

. . . .

For me, the problem is that a huge amount of theoretically teenage publishing is churning out books that simply aren’t for teenagers at all. And that must mean, given the finite opportunities for new books, that “real” teenage books aren’t getting published.

Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Barb for the tip.

Why do teens prefer printed books to e-books? ‘We just do!’

31 May 2016

From Chris Meadows via TeleRead:

The Guardian has an interesting essay by a teen writer from the Guardian children’s books site entitled “Why teenagers are so resistant to e-readers.” (The writer posts under a handle and doesn’t give a gender, so I’m just going to assume she’s female so I can use a pronoun that looks less awkward than “they”.) It’s interesting enough, but when you read the thing, it’s actually kind of mistitled. It could better have been called “Why this teenager still loves paper books.”

She’s not even necessarily resistant to e-readers herself—she spends a paragraph singing the praises of the Kindle for being able to store so many books in such a small space. But then she calls attention to a recent survey showing that 16-24-year-olds prefer paper books—64% directly preferred print books, and 20% didn’t mind them.

People have their different reasons for this. For me personally, one of the many reasons I’m still more than happy to splurge most of my money in Waterstones is not only the smell of new books (intoxicating though that is), but also the feeling of actually holding a book, and being able to actually have a page turner. You can’t smell a Kindle – you’re holding plastic – and tapping an e-ink screen to turn a page isn’t really the same being able to turn a page.

Beyond that, she says, the assumption that everything modern teens do is filtered through digital media is precisely that—an assumption. It doesn’t necessarily hold true for everyone, and there’s still plenty of room for respecting tradition.

. . . .

Why does the kid who wrote this article prefer printed books? She just does. (Well, she cites the smell of books, but I still have a hard time imagining we’ve raised an entire younger generation who goes around huffing books the way they used to sniff tubes of model glue.) I could make sweeping generalizations, such as a rebellion against the preferences of the older generation who’ve taken to Kindles like ducks to water, or perhaps after staring at screens all day at school and for social networking they want to take a break and stare at words that are fixed in place on their pages.

Link to the rest at TeleRead

The Andre Norton Award

21 March 2016

PG received the following message from M.C.A. Hogarth:

Next year, SFWA would like to ensure indie participation in the jury for the Norton award, which recognizes the best in YA and Middle-Grade fiction for the year. I’m not familiar with the indie YA and MG markets, so I’m hoping for some recommendations of folks who’d be willing to serve on next year’s jury. They’d have to know the indie YA or MG market well, and be willing to read a lot of (free!) books; I’d also like them to help me raise awareness of the award among indies so we can get more of their works sent to the jury.

Jurists can be YA or MG authors themselves; they’d have to recuse themselves from nomination for the year, but they can serve.

Here’s a link to the relevant SWFA Norton Award page and you can contact Maggie through her author site.

Are we witnessing the death of young-adult dystopia at the movies?

21 March 2016

From The Los Angeles Times:

In movie theaters this past weekend, a reluctant teen hero led a rebellion comprising an implausible clan of oppressed but likable young iconoclasts. Together they rose up around their chosen one to fight their government’s evil social engineering.

Sound familiar? No, it wasn’t a new installment of “The Hunger Games,” “The Maze Runner”or “The Giver.” And it wasn’t a reprise of “Saturday Night Live’s” “The Group Hopper” sketch, which blended almost every current dystopian teen trope into a trailer for a fake movie “written entirely,” the joke went, “in the comments section of a ‘Hunger Games’ trailer.”

The real film was “The Divergent Series: Allegiant — Part 1,” the third in the franchise starring Shailene Woodley and Theo James.

But with an opening weekend box office of just $29 million — compared with a $54-million start for “Divergent” (2014) and a slightly lower $52 million for “Insurgent” (2015) — “Allegiant” debuted at a disappointing No. 2 behind the rabbit-fronted “Zootopia, calling into question whether we are witnessing the end of the young adult dystopian wave at the movies.

. . . .

But few films in this genre have been able to claim “The Hunger Games'” big bucks. The 2013 science-fiction thriller “The Host” made just more than $26.5 million in its entire domestic run, even though it was adapted from a novel written by “Twilight” author Stephanie Meyer and starred two-time Academy Award nominee Saoirse Ronan. Another alien-centric adaptation “The 5th Wave,” still in theaters, has made just under $34 million since its January debut.

. . . .

Senior media analyst for comScore Paul Dergarabedian doesn’t agree that the weight can be placed solely on the genre in question. “Athough as a whole the YA dystopian movies have had massive success, many films from this category have fallen short, so their continued relevance in the marketplace has come into question,” Dergarabedian said in a email.

He added, “The overriding premise of most of these films seem very similar and thus the natural conclusion is that YA audiences may be looking for other, perhaps fresher options.”

. . . .

Even though the movie dystopia looks to be slowly dwindling in box-office numbers, the “bleak future” trend is alive on television. The CW’s critically adored “The 100” just got renewed for another season, USA premiered Carlton Cuse’s alien-occupied Los Angeles thriller “Colony” in January and AMC’s “The Walking Dead” (while mostly teen-free) is still running strong with a spinoff “Fear the Walking Dead” in tandem. More is on the way. The CW gave the green light to an adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” with a dystopian bent. Wrap your head around that.

Link to the rest at The Los Angeles Times and thanks to Meryl for the tip.

‘The X-Files Origins’ YA Novels Will Follow Adolescent Mulder and Scully

23 February 2016

From Entertainment Weekly:

X-Files fans will be able to add a new chapter to Mulder and Scully’s story with The X-Files Origins series, a pair of YA novels about 15-year-old Dana Scully and 17-year-old Fox Mulder.

EW can exclusively announce the two new novels inThe X-Files Origins series, Agent of Chaos and Devil’s Advocate. Each story is set in the spring of 1979, when serial murder, the occult, and government conspiracy were highlighted in the news. The books, acquired by Imprint/Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, follow Mulder and Scully as they experience life-changing events that set them on the path to becoming the FBI agents depicted by David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson on the cult-favorite TV show The X-Files.

Link to the rest at Entertainment Weekly

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