YA

Why I Still Read Junior and Young Adult Fiction

18 January 2018

From Book Riot:

I confess, I am an adult, but I still read Junior and Young Adult novels. When my daughter was around age 12, she suddenly proclaimed that she was old enough that she didn’t need a bedtime story any more. By this time, we were well beyond picture books. However, each night I would read a chapter of a Junior or Young Adult Novel to her. I enjoyed the time we spent snuggling up, reading together. It was a bedtime ritual that we had started when she was very young, as I believed in the importance of reading to your baby.

It was also a great way for me to read novels that I was interested in. Novels that were marketed to younger generations, that is. Together we read J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials seriesand Kate Forsyth’s Chain of Charms series, along with too many other books to name.

. . . .

A study published in 2012 showed that 55% of those purchasing YA fiction are over 18, with 78% of these reporting that the books are being purchased for themselves.

. . . .

The reason I read Junior and Young Adult fiction is because the plots are punchy and fast paced, keeping me turning page after page, usually well after I intend to put the book down. The characters are engaging and believable; they have to be to keep a younger audience hooked.

Link to the rest at Book Riot

The Remarkable Influence of A Wrinkle in Time

4 January 2018

From Smithsonian.com:

When Léna Roy was 7 years old, her teacher read the first chapter of A Wrinkle in Time aloud to her second-grade class. After school, Léna ran to her grandmother’s house, which was around the corner from her school on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, to finish the book on her own. She curled up in bed and devoured it. She felt just like the hotheaded, stubborn heroine Meg Murry, and took comfort in the fact that a flawed adolescent girl could save the world. “It was almost like your permission to be a real person,” Roy says. “You don’t have to be perfect.”

Millions of other adolescent girls (and boys) have made the same liberating discovery while reading A Wrinkle in Time. What’s different about Roy is that her grandmother happened to be Madeleine L’Engle, the book’s author, who revolutionized serious young adult fiction with her clever mash-up of big ideas, science fantasy and adventure—and a geeky girl action hero way ahead of her time.

Since its 1962 publication, Wrinkle has sold more than ten million copies and been turned into a graphic novel, an opera and two films, including an ambitious adaptation from the director Ava DuVernay due out in March. The book also kicked open the door for other bright young heroines and the amazingly lucrative franchises they appear in, from whip-smart Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter books to lethal Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games. Leonard Marcus, author of the L’Engle biography Listening for Madeleine, says Wrinkle “set the stage for the reception of Harry Potter in this country.” Previously, he says, science fiction and fantasy were suitable for high-end British authors like C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien in Britain but in the States were relegated to pulp magazines and drugstore paperbacks.

Then came L’Engle, a 41-year-old writer who spent three months in 1959 writing the hard-to-categorize story that would become A Wrinkle in Time. While Meg Murry and her companions traveled through time and space to save her father, a scientist trapped by evil forces on a distant planet, readers had to wrap their minds around the fifth dimension, the horrors of conformity and the power of love. L’Engle believed that literature should show youngsters they were capable of taking on the forces of evil in the universe, not just the everyday pains of growing up. “If it’s not good enough for adults,” she once wrote, “it’s not good enough for children.”

. . . .

Publishers hated it. Every firm her agent turned to rejected the manuscript. One advised to “do a cutting job on it—by half.” Another complained “it’s something between an adult and juvenile novel.” Finally, a friend advised L’Engle to send it to one of the most prestigious houses of all, Farrar, Straus and Giroux. John Farrar liked the manuscript. A test reader he gave it to, though, was unimpressed: “I think this is the worst book I have ever read, it reminds me of The Wizard of Oz.” Yet FSG acquired it, and Hal Vursell, the book’s editor, talked it up in letters he sent to reviewers: “It’s distinctly odd, extremely well written,” he wrote to one, “and is going to make greater intellectual and emotional demands on 12 to 16 year olds than most formula fiction for this age group.”

When it debuted, not only was Wrinkle widely praised—“wholly absorbing,” said the New York Times Book Review—but it won the Newbery Medal, the most important award in children’s lit. “The almost universal reaction of children to this year’s winning book, by wanting to talk about it to each other and to elders, shows the deep desire to understand as well as to enjoy,” said Newbery committee member Ruth Gagliardo.

Link to the rest at Smithsonian.com

20 YA Books for Older Teen Reluctant Readers

8 October 2017

From BookRiot:

I love book list requests, and this one is especially good. While we’ve talked about great books for younger reluctant readers, we’ve not done one targeted toward those older teen readers.

. . . .

A reluctant reader, for those unfamiliar with the term, is someone who “doesn’t like to read” or who has a hard time picking up a book and becoming invested in it immediately. Reluctant readers tend to fall into those teenage years, in part because reading isn’t seen as a cool thing to do, and in part because so much of what teens are reading in school simply isn’t speaking to them and thus, they think that there simply aren’t books out there for people like them.

And, as much as this one will hurt for some people to see, I really do believe that there are some people who simply don’t like reading. Reading, while a vital skill for societal functioning, is also a hobby. For some, it’s not a hobby they’re interested in, and try as we might to get a book into their hands, it’s entirely possible that they just aren’t interested.

So we let them do their thing.

Because the true reluctant readers are the ones worth fighting for. They’re the kids you know would love a good story because they love stories in other mediums: movies, video games, television. It’s a matter of the right book not falling into their hands quite yet and showing them the world of stories which do speak to them and engage them fully. It’s also being upfront with them about the fact that being a reader doesn’t mean giving up other things that they find enjoyable; it’s simply adding more options to how they spend their time.

. . . .

The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie (series)

For Cassandra Leung, bossing around sea monsters is just the family business. She’s been a Reckoner trainer-in-training ever since she could walk, raising the genetically-engineered beasts to defend ships as they cross the pirate-infested NeoPacific. But when the pirate queen Santa Elena swoops in on Cas’s first solo mission and snatches her from the bloodstained decks, Cas’s dream of being a full-time trainer seems dead in the water.

There’s no time to mourn. Waiting for her on the pirate ship is an unhatched Reckoner pup. Santa Elena wants to take back the seas with a monster of her own, and she needs a proper trainer to do it. She orders Cas to raise the pup, make sure he imprints on her ship, and, when the time comes, teach him to fight for the pirates. If Cas fails, her blood will be the next to paint the sea.

. . . .

Fake ID by Lamar Giles

Nick Pearson is hiding in plain sight…

My name isn’t really Nick Pearson.

I shouldn’t tell you where I’m from or why my family moved to Stepton, Virginia.

I shouldn’t tell you who I really am, or my hair, eye, and skin color.

And I definitely shouldn’t tell you about my friend Eli Cruz and the major conspiracy he was about to uncover when he died—right after I moved to town. About how I had to choose between solving his murder with his hot sister, Reya, and “staying low-key” like the Program has taught me. About how moving to Stepon changed my life forever.

But I’m going to.

Link to the rest at BookRiot

High School Reading as an Act of Meaningful Aggression

20 September 2017

From The Millions:

Towards the end of each year I do one of those anonymous surveys where I ask the students—high-school sophomores and juniors—how much they read, as a percentage, of each book. I’ve been doing this for the last 10 years or so, and the results are remarkably consistent: most students read most, but rarely all, of each book. About 15 percent read every single word of every single thing, some of it twice. These the kids who would read the contents list of a 7-11 freezer if told, the same students who tend to sit in the front row and take the kind of notes that end up in the Smithsonian. Another 15 percent admit to struggling to even open the books, but would gladly read the 7-11 freezer list because of its novelty value and the refreshing lack of obfuscating adjectives and modifiers. The 70 percent of students in the middle make up the dominant percentage, the ones who often leave little notes, not quite apologia, but regretful explanations about wishing that they had more time to do all the reading because they would have liked to, that they did most of it, that what they read of The Great Gatsby was really good but what with other homework, and athletics, and Uncle Steve’s birthday dinner, and the cousin in Jersey with leukemia, and x not yet having said anything about prom…well, there was a lot to think about.

All this at three separate independent schools in different parts of California. Like I said, remarkably consistent results, and results that translate across gender, race, and socioeconomic status. In terms of the not-highly-rigorous breakdown of those not-highly-rigorous statistics you get about 70 percent of the students reading about 70 percent of the material 70 percent of the time. All of which sounds terrific, except that most of the time, most of the 70 percent, and even some of the 15 percent taking Smithsonian-esque notes, see words rather than read them. For most high-school students, the act of “reading” recalls the soft glow of something done at night, before bed, in jim-jams with a cup of hot cocoa—the equivalent of night-time elevator music. Or, if not that, they’re “reading” on the bus, in the car, while standing outside class two minutes before the bell. And, at best, gaining an understanding of situation and context: who did what or said what to whom and where at what time in what kind of weather. Seeing words but not really reading them, a marriage without contact.

I want them to see reading as something far more intimate, even fractured at times, as something combative, vulgar, assertive—a constant back-and-forth between reading and rereading, moments of stepping outside the text then coming back and battering at it with questions. Something better done in a flak jacket than pajamas. And high school students hate doing it. Who, what, when, and where, of course, are essential. You gotta figure out who’s sleeping with whom before you ask why. There’s a brother involved? What? No. Wait! They’re on a train? If that part’s hazy, the next stop becomes SparkNotes and PinkMonkey, and you might as well hand out the 7-11 freezer list.

Link to the rest at The Millions

The Toxic Drama on YA Twitter

8 August 2017

From Vulture:

Young-adult books are being targeted in intense social-media callouts, draggings, and pile-ons — sometimes before anybody’s even read them.

. . . .

The Black Witch, a debut young-adult fantasy novel by Laurie Forest, was still seven weeks from its May 1 publication date, but positive buzz was already building, with early reviews calling it “an intoxicating tale of rebellion and star-crossed romance,” “a massive page-turner that leaves readers longing for more,” and “an uncompromising condemnation of prejudice and injustice.”

The hype train was derailed in mid-March, however, by Shauna Sinyard, a bookstore employee and blogger who writes primarily about YA and had a different take: “The Black Witch is the most dangerous, offensive book I have ever read,” she wrote in a nearly 9,000-word review that blasted the novel as an end-to-end mess of unadulterated bigotry. “It was ultimately written for white people. It was written for the type of white person who considers themselves to be not-racist and thinks that they deserve recognition and praise for treating POC like they are actually human.”

The Black Witch centers on a girl named Elloren who has been raised in a stratified society where other races (including selkies, fae, wolfmen, etc.) are considered inferior at best and enemies at worst. But when she goes off to college, she begins to question her beliefs, an ideological transformation she’s still working on when she joins with the rebellion in the last of the novel’s 600 pages. (It’s the first of a series; one hopes that Elloren will be more woke in book two.)

It was this premise that led Sinyard to slam The Black Witch as “racist, ableist, homophobic, and … written with no marginalized people in mind,” in a review that consisted largely of pull quotes featuring the book’s racist characters saying or doing racist things. Here’s a representative excerpt, an offending sentence juxtaposed with Sinyard’s commentary:

“pg. 163. The Kelts are not a pure race like us. They’re more accepting of intermarriage, and because of this, they’re hopelessly mixed.”

Yes, you just read that with your own two eyes. This is one of the times my jaw dropped in horror and I had to walk away from this book.

. . . .

Based almost solely on Sinyard’s opinion, the novel became the object of sustained, aggressive opposition in the weeks leading up its release. Its publisher, Harlequin Teen, was bombarded with angry emails demanding they pull the book. The Black Witch’s Goodreads rating dropped to an abysmal 1.71 thanks to a mass coordinated campaign of one-star reviews, mostly from people who admitted to not having read it.

. . . .

The harm Mimi describes is central to campaigns like the one against The Black Witch, which are almost always waged in the name of protecting vulnerable teens from dangerous ideas. These books, it’s claimed, are hurting children.

. . . .

Dramatic as that sounds, it’s worth noting that my attempts to report this piece were met with intense pushback. Sinyard politely declined my request for an interview in what seemed like a routine exchange, but then announced on Twitter that our interaction had “scared” her, leading to backlash from community members who insisted that the as-yet-unwritten story would endanger her life. Rumors quickly spread that I had threatened or harassed Sinyard; several influential authors instructed their followers not to speak to me; and one librarian and member of the Newbery Award committee tweeted at Vulture nearly a dozen times accusing them of enabling “a washed-up YA author” engaged in “a personalized crusade” against the entire publishing community (disclosure: while freelance culture writing makes up the bulk of my work, I published a pair of young adult novels in 2012 and 2014.) With one exception, all my sources insisted on anonymity, citing fear of professional damage and abuse.

None of this comes as a surprise to the folks concerned by the current state of the discourse, who describe being harassed for dissenting from or even questioning the community’s dynamics. One prominent children’s-book agent told me, “None of us are willing to comment publicly for fear of being targeted and labeled racist or bigoted. But if children’s-book publishing is no longer allowed to feature an unlikable character, who grows as a person over the course of the story, then we’re going to have a pretty boring business.”

Another agent, via email, said that while being tarred as problematic may not kill an author’s career — “It’s likely made the rounds as gossip, but I don’t know it’s impacting acquisitions or agents offering representation” — the potential for reputational damage is real: “No one wants to be called a racist, or sexist, or homophobic. That stink doesn’t wash off.”

Link to the rest at Vulture

On some days, PG feels like he’s living

2 new Harry Potter books set to be published in October

19 July 2017

From E News:

British publishing house Bloomsbury announced Tuesday that two Harry Potter books will be released in October, coinciding with the opening of the British Library’s Harry Potter exhibition, “A History of Magic.” Harry Potter: A History of Magic – The Book of the Exhibition will take readers through subjects studied at Hogwarts, while Harry Potter – A Journey Through a History of Magic will cover mystical topics including alchemy, ancient witchcraft and magical creatures.

Each chapter in The Book of the Exhibition “showcases a treasure trove of artifacts from the British Library and other collections around the world, beside exclusive manuscripts, sketches and illustrations from the Harry Potter archive,” according to the publisher. Each subject area includes a “specially commissioned essay” from people like Steve Backshall, Richard Coles, Owen Davies, Julia Eccleshare, Roger Highfield, Steve Kloves, Lucy Mangan, Anna Pavord and Tim Peake.

Link to the rest at E News

Harry Potter and the translator’s nightmare

25 October 2016

‘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.

Next Page »