Friday, March 6, 2015

This Week at Book Riot

I don't think I mentioned it here, but I'm now working full-time for Book Riot. I had been there part-time, and this week, I made the transition to going full-time. I haven't worked a single full-time job since 2011 -- I've been doing the freelance thing alongside part-time work and other side gigs -- so the change over has been interesting. This shouldn't impact anything here at Stacked, since there's always plenty to write about, but it has shifted my schedule and energy a bit, so I'm working on readjusting and acclimating to a new routine.

Here's a look at what I wrote over on Book Riot this week...

  • This week's 3 On A YA Theme was all about mythological retellings. All three I highlighted are written by women of color. 

In the monthly Riot Round-up, where everyone can talk about their favorite read from the month, I talked about Elana K. Arnold's fantastic Infandous. This is a little tiny book but it packs a punch. Elana will be here later this month with a knock-out guest post, too. 

Continue reading...

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Get Genrefied: Alternate/Alternative Formats

Every month, Kimberly and I talk about genres and formats in YA in our "Get Genrefied" series. We've tackled everything from high fantasy to thrillers, contemporary/realistic to the graphic novel format. Each month, we love talking back and forth about what topic we want to approach, and we've built a nice list of what we haven't talked about yet.

But this month, I thought I would go back and talk more about a format that I have talked about before. Not because we're out of ideas, but instead, because it's a format that got a lot of talk at ALA Midwinter in January from various publishers as being something they're acquiring and publishing more and more of. That is the alternative format -- books that aren't a traditional narrative structure. Because this isn't a traditional genre in the same way that urban fantasy or cyberpunk may be, this guide will be a little bit less traditional as well. Alternate format novels take on every genre, and there's not necessarily an easy, straightforward way to define them. You know what it is when you see it.


There's not a singular, solid definition of what a novel in an alternate -- or alternative -- format is. It's hard to even say which is the right terminology, alternate or alternative, so for the purposes of this guide, the terms are used interchangeably but mean the same thing.

We're used to a traditional narrative format when it comes to novels. That doesn't mean that we expect the same structure with each book, but we expect the story to be composed of lines and paragraphs which flow into chapters of some sort. There's a linear structure keeping the story together. Alternative formats do away with this linear format we're used to and instead, they use different methods of story telling. This could be through letters, which make them epistolary novels, through diary entries, through e-mails or instant messages, through Twitter or other social media, through lists, or through mixed media, including novels that are partially traditional narrative and partially graphic novels. 

It could be easily argued that verse novels and novels told through multiple points of view fall under the alternate format umbrella. For me, I don't know anymore if I agree with that argument. Not because they're not different, but because there's a specific term for verse novels (and it's acknowledged as a format in and of itself) and because the use of multiple points of view isn't that surprising or different anymore. Multiple points of view still tend to follow the traditional narrative structure, unless they are themselves in an alternate format (say one of the characters tells his or her side of the story through lists or illustrations). This is splitting hairs, of course, and considering either or both as alternate is perfectly reasonable. 

Another kink in defining alternate formats is that it can be tricky to figure out what an end point to the category is. Would alternate format novels also include the sorts of books that feature a digital component to them? Do transmedia works count as alternative formats? It would make sense to say yes to this, though for the purposes of defining alternate formats, as well as keeping this guide tight, I think it's fair to leave those sorts of books out of the definition because many transmedia works or novels which feature digital components are not entirely dependent on those pieces to tell the story. Often, though not always, that's bonus content for readers who want to continue digging deeper into the worlds they're reading. 

So what's an alternate format then? It's a book in which non-traditional methods are used to tell the story and those methods are crucial to the understanding of that story. 


Because alternative formats aren't a genre in and of themselves, these books are eligible for awards in their appropriate categories. Fiction titles -- including graphic hybrids -- are as eligible for the Printz, as well as the Morris awards through YALSA, and they're eligible for the National Book Award in Young People's Literature. Books in alternate formats are eligible for other respective awards and selection lists through YALSA, including the Best Fiction for Young Adults list and the Excellence in Non-Fiction Award, if the work in question is non-fiction (an example of an alternate format in non-fiction may include something like a graphic hybrid memoir). Depending on the genre of the book in an alternate formate, it may also be eligible for various awards, including the Edgar, the Norton Award, and so forth. 

Of course, because these books are eligible across awards and honor lists, it's not always easy to pull out which titles are written in alternative formats. This is where reading annotations, as well as writing strong annotations, becomes useful. Making note of books featuring something different in structure makes finding them much easier. 

We've put together lists and resources in the past: 

  • As part of the 2012 Contemporary YA week, we put together a list of contemporary/realistic YA in alternate formats. This included novels in verse, as well as books told through multiple points of view. As proof of how much we grow as readers and thinkers, I'm not entirely sure I agree anymore that novels told through verse or in multiple points of view are necessarily alternate formats; however, I think they do offer something different, so they're worth noting here. 
  • Verse novels as rounded up last year and in previous years. 

Around the book world, a few more resources worth having on hand to make finding alternate format YA novels easier:

  • Jennie wrote about a handful of epistolary YA novels at YA Reading List

Reading List 

Because this could be lengthy, this reading list is limited to books published in the last 4 to 5 years. It's especially heavy on upcoming titles, as this is a format that's going to be growing in the next year. Links above will lead you to many excellent backlist titles that fit the alternate format category in YA. I've also included forthcoming titles I'm aware of, but if there are any missing, lay them on me in the comments. Likewise, this is a contemporary/realistic heavy list, so genre novels fitting the alternate format definition are ones I'd love to know more about as well. 

These books range from being told as graphic hybrids to play scripts, from art class assignments in narrative non-fiction format (fictionalized) to more traditional diary/epistolary formats. As usual, all descriptions are from WorldCat unless otherwise noted. 

Me Being Me Is Exactly As Insane As You Being You by Todd Hasak-Lowy (March 24): Through a series of lists, a narrator reveals how fifteen-year old Darren's world was rocked by his parents' divorce just as his brother, Nate, was leaving for college, and a year later when his father comes out as gay, then how he begins to deal with it all after a stolen weekend with Nate and his crush, Zoey.

The Truth Commission by Susan Juby (April 14): As a project for her "creative non-fiction module" at a school for the arts, Normandy Pale chronicles the work of the Truth Commission, through which she and her two best friends ask classmates and faculty about various open secrets, while Norm's famous sister reveals some very unsettling truths of her own.

The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley by Shaun David Hutchinson: Convinced he should have died in the accident that killed his parents and sister, sixteen-year-old Drew lives in a hospital, hiding from employees and his past, until Rusty, set on fire for being gay, turns his life around. Includes excerpts from the superhero comic Drew creates.

Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story by David Levithan (March 17): Larger-than-life Tiny Cooper finally gets to tell his story, from his fabulous birth and childhood to his quest for true love and his infamous parade of ex-boyfriends, in the form of a musical he wrote.

The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks: I can't believe I fell for it. It was still dark when I woke up this morning. As soon as my eyes opened I knew where I was. A low-ceilinged rectangular building made entirely of whitewashed concrete. There are six little rooms along the main corridor. There are no windows. No doors. The lift is the only way in or out. What's he going to do to me?

Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero: Sixteen-year-old Gabi Hernandez chronicles her senior year in high school as she copes with her friend Cindy's pregnancy, friend Sebastian's coming out, her father's meth habit, her own cravings for food and cute boys, and especially, the poetry that helps forge her identity.

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman: Sixteen-year-old Min Green writes a letter to Ed Slaterton in which she breaks up with him, documenting their relationship and how items in the accompanying box, from bottle caps to a cookbook, foretell the end.

Roomies by Tara Altebrando and Sara Zarr: While living very different lives on opposite coasts, seventeen-year-old Elizabeth and eighteen-year-old Lauren become acquainted by email the summer before they begin rooming together as freshmen at UC-Berkeley.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews: Seventeen-year-old Greg has managed to become part of every social group at his Pittsburgh high school without having any friends, but his life changes when his mother forces him to befriend Rachel, a girl he once knew in Hebrew school who has leukemia.

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaria: When Laurel starts writing letters to dead people for a school assignment, she begins to spill about her sister's mysterious death, her mother's departure from the family, her new friends, and her first love.

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick: A day in the life of a suicidal teen boy saying good-bye to the four people who matter most to him.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (series): A horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children who once lived here were more than just peculiar.


Asylum by Madeleine Roux (series): Three teens at a summer program for gifted students uncover shocking secrets in the sanatorium-turned-dorm where they're staying--secrets that link them all to the asylum's dark past.

Chasing Shadows by Swati Avasthi, illustrated by Craig Phillips: Chasing Shadows is a searing look at the impact of one random act of violence. Before: Corey, Holly, and Savitri are one unit-- fast, strong, inseparable. Together they turn Chicago concrete and asphalt into a freerunner's jungle gym, ricocheting off walls, scaling buildings, leaping from rooftop to rooftop. But acting like a superhero doesn't make you bulletproof. After: Holly and Savitri are coming unglued. Holly says she's chasing Corey's killer, chasing revenge. Savitri fears Holly's just running wild-- and leaving her behind. Friends should stand by each other in times of crisis. But can you hold on too tight? Too long? In this intense novel, told in two voices, and incorporating comic-style art sections, Swati Avasthi creates a gripping portrait of two girls teetering on the edge of grief and insanity. Two girls who will find out just how many ways there are to lose a friend-- and how many ways to be lost.

Because You'll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas (July 2): Ollie, who has seizures when near electricity, lives in a backwoods cabin with his mother and rarely sees other people, and Moritz, born with no eyes and a heart defect that requires a pacemaker, is bullied at his high school, but when a physician who knows both suggests they begin corresponding, they form a strong bond that may get them through dark times.


Bright Lights, Dark Nights by Stephen Emond (August 11): Walter Wilcox's first love, Naomi, happens to be African American, so when Walter's policeman father is caught in a racial profiling scandal, the teens' bond and mutual love of the Foo Fighters may not be enough to keep them together through the pressures they face at school, at home, and online.

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon (September 1): My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I'm allergic to the world.I don't leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He's tall, lean and wearing all black--black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can't predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It's almost certainly going to be a disaster. (Description via Goodreads). 

Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral: In a love story told in photographs and drawings, Glory, a brilliant piano prodigy, is drawn to Frank, an artistic new boy, and the farther she falls, the deeper she spirals into madness until the only song she is able to play is "Chopsticks."

Continue reading...

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Bandette by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover

I was craving a good heist story and was recommended the comic book series Bandette by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover. It's a creator-owned comic published by MonkeyBrain, and the first trade is out now. It features the world's greatest thief, a teenage girl named Bandette, who steals from the bad people to give to the good people (while keeping a little back for herself). She's also often called upon by the local police to assist with solving various crimes, though not even the police know her real identity. She's like Batman if Batman also stole things and didn't have all that angst over his dead parents.

Bandette herself is supremely confident (she proclaims she is the best thief, and does so without shame for believing it), but she also delights in finding a rival who is worthy of her. She flirts with her friend Daniel, who in turn goes starry-eyed over her. She's always hanging upside down, grinning hugely while encouraging her friends to get in trouble with her. She loves being a thief and she does it because it's fun for her, and because she's good at it - and isn't that what we all want out of our careers?

The first volume collects issues 1-5 and mainly deals with Bandette and her urchins (sidekicks) going after a crime syndicate as a favor to the local police. The crime syndicate is also going after her, having decided she's been a thorn in their side for too long. She teams up with her biggest rival, simply named Monsieur, who has himself been recruited by a mysterious woman to steal from the aforementioned crime syndicate. Each issue builds upon the prior one, though there's a handy recap at the beginning of each, and the story never really becomes all that complex (which is part of its charm).

The book is fun and whimsical and doesn't take itself very seriously. One of Bandette's main weapons is a bottle simply labeled "Knockout Spray." No need to think too hard on it. The evil organization has the acronym FINIS and its principal villain is named Absinthe. Bandette's main sidekick rides a motorbike called Rad Thai. Her library has one bookshelf for "First Editions: Purchased" and one for "First Editions: Liberated." There's subtle humor like this on practically every page, both in the dialogue and the art. The art is blessedly free of scantily-clad women and is a bit simpler and more painterly than traditional comic book art. It fits the mood of the story well - light-hearted and fun.

Long-time readers of this blog may know that I have a weakness for heist stories. I want an all-female Ocean's 11 sort of book so badly. (Ally Carter's Heist Society books probably come closest.) Bandette helps to satisfy this itch. It encapsulates so much of what I enjoy about heist stories: how clever the capers are, that the thieves are the good guys and they always win, the overall theme of sticking it to the man and getting rich at the same time, all the witty banter, the friendship between the thieves. It's all good fun. This particular title is perfectly suitable for a YA audience and it's a welcome addition to the growing collection of female-led books.

Personal copy.

Continue reading...

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Romance Roundup - Sarah MacLean Edition

I’m still super into the romance novels lately. I’ve been reading a lot of Sarah MacLean, working my way through the Smythe-Smith Julia Quinns, and bemoaning the fact that my library doesn’t have more Sherry Thomas on audio. For this installment, I'm going to stick to MacLean's oeuvre, which I have strong feelings about.

Let’s start with the good stuff. With one notable exception, I’ve liked everything I’ve read by MacLean. Her first series is called Love By Numbers, and just to confuse everyone, it starts with number nine. Alas, there are not eight previous novels in the series. Too bad. I liked the first two, but the third is hands-down my favorite of the series. It’s called Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart. Say that three times fast. Anyway, awkward title aside, this is a pretty great book. The heroine is an Italian woman named Juliana Fiori. She has the unfortunate luck to be the daughter of a woman who abandoned her proper English husband and went to live with an Italian man…and then abandoned him, too. Now Juliana’s father is dead and she’s moved to London to stay with her half-brothers. Through no fault of her own, London society considers her a walking scandal, which is exactly what the Duke of Leighton (our hero) wants to avoid.

Leighton appears in the previous books and he does not make a good impression. He’s called the Duke of Disdain. He’s so utterly focused on propriety and reputation, and he’s incredibly arrogant and looks down on women like Juliana. When Juliana flees a party and hides in his carriage, he thinks she’s there to trick him into marriage. I was doubtful that MacLean could make him sympathetic, but she does it. It helps that I like my romance heroes a bit on the arrogant side – you know, as long as there’s evidence for the arrogance. He also has a backstory that explains how he developed in such a way. He and Juliana are really well matched. She helps him to learn some compassion and not care so much what others think, and he in turn helps her learn how to accept who she is. It’s funny, too. Juliana gives the duke a good dressing-down multiple times. There’s really good chemistry, it feels natural and unforced. It’s also especially satisfying to see the difference in Leighton between the first two books and the end of this one. There’s a character arc for him through the whole series, which is unusual in romances.

In contrast, the first book of MacLean’s next series, A Rogue By Any Other Name (the series is called The Rules of Scoundrels), introduces us to a romance hero whom I could not sympathize with. Oh how I loathed Bourne. It begins with Bourne kidnapping the heroine (Penelope, the woman who was previously engaged to Leighton) in order to make it seem like he’s ruined her and therefore she must marry him. Wait, let me back up. It actually begins with Bourne losing all of his land gambling and then that land eventually becoming a part of Penelope’s dowry. Hence why he wants to marry her. Who cares what she wants? I have zero sympathy for rich men who lose it all gambling. Strike one. And then the kidnapping? Strikes two and three.

This is not unusual in historical romances, actually. There are way too many kidnappings. I try to avoid them. But I kept reading this one in hopes MacLean would convince me that he’s actually not such a bad sort. But he is. He is a terrible, terrible person. He uses her and has no sympathy when Penelope tells him over and over again that her whole life has consisted of men using her for their own ends and she’s tired of it. He just keeps using her. I wanted Penelope to push him in front of a cart. Alas, she never did. She fell in love with him. Unbelievable, since she is a good sort of person and he treats her terribly. Now if she were just as bad as him, I’d believe it a bit more. Alas. (At least his characterization is consistent; he’s an asshole in the next books, too.)

The next two books are good, not great. The heroes are scoundrels, but not without merit, at least. But the last book. The last book. Be still, my heart. It might be my favorite romance novel ever. It just might. It’s called Never Judge a Lady By Her Cover and I am in love with it. Since this information is revealed in the synopsis on the back of the book, I feel comfortable sharing it here. It features Georgiana, the younger sister of Leighton who became pregnant at 16 and was shunned from polite society from then on. She eventually grew tired of everyone treating her like crap and decided to get revenge on them all. She opened up the Fallen Angel, the club at which all the previous heroes in the series work. She masquerades as a man – the elusive Chase whom no one ever sees and only speaks through his emissary, the prostitute Anna (who is also Georgiana!). The first three books carefully avoided pronouns when referring to Chase so this came as a surprise to long-term readers.

Ugh, this book is so good. So many of my stories as a teenager and an early 20-something were basically thinly-veiled revenge stories wherein I wreaked vengeance on anyone who was ever cruel to me. And Georgiana does exactly that here! Membership in her club requires that the men share secrets (theirs, or their family’s, or their friends’), and she uses those secrets to hurt the ones who have hurt her, all terrible people. I LOVE THIS. She busts pre-Victorian stereotypes about women and finds a way to be powerful in this restrictive time period.

Her hero, Duncan West, is a good match for her – he’s the owner of a number of newspapers, successful but untitled. Georgiana has decided that for the sake of her daughter, she will try to repair her public reputation. She intends to find a titled husband who will be able to shield her daughter from her scandal. West agrees to help her by publishing puff pieces about her in the scandal sheet of his paper. And they fall in love. He learns early on that Georgiana is Anna, but he’s clueless about Chase until nearly the end. It’s cute seeing him try to convince Georgiana to “leave” Chase when they are one and the same. He’s dislikes her relationship with Chase because he thinks Chase mistreats her, not because she sleeps with Chase for money. And when he does find out that she is Chase, he accepts it so easily. Of course she is. She’s brilliant and devious and he loves those things about her.

If you love romance, do yourself a favor and read this book. It is spectacular. It breaks the mold of historical romance in the best way possible. Plus it’s wonderfully written, completely sigh-worthy, and has a perfect ending that is completely true to Georgiana’s character. It’s fantastic and I’ve read it twice already.

I am super excited for MacLean's next series, Scandal and Scoundrel, which kicks off with The Rogue Not Taken (see what she did there?) later this year. Let's hope the hero is less Bourne and more West. And that the heroine is even half as awesome as Georgiana.

Continue reading...

Monday, March 2, 2015

On The Radar: 13 Books for March

One of the most popular posts I do over at Book Riot is the round-up of upcoming YA fiction titles, and one of the most popular questions I seem to get on Twitter and in my inboxes is "what should I be looking out for in YA?" For a lot of readers, especially those who work with teens either in classrooms or in libraries, knowing what's coming out ahead of time is valuable to get those books into readers' hands before they even ask.

Each month, I'll call out between 8 and 12 books coming out that should be on your radar. These include books by high-demand, well-known authors, as well as some up-and-coming and debut authors. They'll be across a variety of genres, including diverse titles and writers. Not all of the books will be ones that Kimberly or I have read, nor will all of them be titles that we're going to read and review. Rather, these are books that readers will be looking for and that have popped up regularly on social media, in advertising, in book mail, and so forth. It's part science and part arbitrary and a way to keep the answer to "what should I know about for this month?" quick, easy, and under $300 (doable for smaller library budgets especially).

I'm cheating a little bit this month because there are so many releases worth knowing about. Rather than keep to the strict 12 title limit...I'm including 13. So, here are 13 titles to have on your March 2015 radar. All descriptions are from WorldCat, and I've included short notes as to why the title was included. 

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby (March 3): 
Everyone knows Bone Gap is full of gaps—gaps to trip you up, gaps to slide through so you can disappear forever. So when young, beautiful Roza went missing, the people of Bone Gap weren’t surprised. After all, it wasn’t the first time that someone had slipped away and left Finn and Sean O’Sullivan on their own. Just a few years before, their mother had high-tailed it to Oregon for a brand new guy, a brand new life. That’s just how things go, the people said. Who are you going to blame?

Finn knows that’s not what happened with Roza. He knows she was kidnapped, ripped from the cornfields by a dangerous man whose face he cannot remember. But the searches turned up nothing, and no one believes him anymore. Not even Sean, who has more reason to find Roza than anyone, and every reason to blame Finn for letting her go.

As we follow the stories of Finn, Roza, and the people of Bone Gap—their melancholy pasts, their terrifying presents, their uncertain futures—acclaimed author Laura Ruby weaves a heartbreaking tale of love and loss, magic and mystery, regret and forgiveness—a story about how the face the world sees is never the sum of who we are.
  (via Goodreads)

Why: This literary tale has garnered a ton of buzz (sorry, sorry) and it's earned a number of stars. I have no doubt we'll be seeing a lot of Printz-related talk about this one as the year goes on. 

The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma (March 24): Orianna and Violet are ballet dancers and best friends, but when the ballerinas who have been harassing Violet are murdered, Orianna is accused of the crime and sent to a juvenile detention center where she meets Amber and they experience supernatural events linking the girls together.

Why: I think Suma's books should all be on everyone's radars since they're so outstanding, but this one might be her best. It's received a ton of buzz, as well as three starred reviews, and all of it is well-deserved. This is a literary novel with huge appeal for readers, especially those who like their stories with a side of horror. The "Orange is the New Black Swan" tag line it's had is pretty on point. 

The Bunker Diary by Kevin Brooks (March 1): I can't believe I fell for it. It was still dark when I woke up this morning. As soon as my eyes opened I knew where I was. A low-ceilinged rectangular building made entirely of whitewashed concrete. There are six little rooms along the main corridor. There are no windows. No doors. The lift is the only way in or out. What's he going to do to me?

Why: Brooks won the UK's Carnegie medal in literature for this book when it published over there in 2013. It then went on to get some media attention, primarily about how this isn't "really" a book "for teens." With the discussion it generated there, I think this is a book to keep an eye on when it comes out in the US this month.

Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman (March 10): Seraphina, half-dragon and half-human, searches for others like her who can make the difference in the war between dragons and humans in the kingdom of Goredd.

Why: This is the sequel to the 2013 Morris Award winning Seraphina

Death Marked by Leah Cypess (March 3): After killing the leader of a clan of assassins and falling in love with his heir, a young sorceress discovers she is the one person to bring down the evil Empire that has been oppressing her people for centuries, and now, in the heart of the Empire, Ileni herself is the deadliest weapon the assassins have ever had.

Why: This is the sequel to Cypess's Death Sworn. This is a high fantasy series featuring magical powers. Kimberly quite enjoyed the first entry in this series

The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski (March 3): The engagement of Lady Kestrel to Valoria's crown prince is the event of a lifetime, but to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making, so as she aches to tell the truth about her engagement, she becomes a skilled practitioner of deceit and as a spy passes information and gets close to uncovering a shocking secret.

Why: This is the sequel to the popular The Winner's Curse book, which came out last year. This is a historical fantasy series worth knowing about. 

The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows (March 10): Orphaned as a child, Princess Wilhelmina together with her best friend Melanie return to the Indigo Kingdom to fight back and reclaim Wil's throne. But Wil has a secret -- one that could change everything.

Why: This is the launch of a new fantasy series. Meadows's first series, "Newsoul," was -- and is -- pretty popular and well reviewed by readers. 

The Wicked Will Rise by Danielle Paige (March 31): My name is Amy Gumm--and I'm the other girl from Kansas. After a tornado swept through my trailer park, I ended up in Oz. But it wasn't like the Oz I knew from books and movies. Dorothy had returned, but she was now a ruthless dictator. Glinda could no longer be called the Good Witch. And the Wicked Witches who were left? They'd joined forces as the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked, and they wanted to recruit me. My mission? Kill Dorothy. Except my job as assassin didn't work out as planned. Dorothy is still alive. The Order has vanished. And the home I couldn't wait to leave behind might be in danger. Somehow, across a twisted and divided land, I have to find the Order, protect the true ruler of Oz, take Dorothy and her henchmen down--and try to figure out what I'm really doing here. 

Why: Paige's first novel, Dorothy Must Die, was a New York Times Bestseller. This is the sequel/companion to that title. (Not a why, but worth noting that this series is from Full Fathom Five, so do with that what you will).

The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith (March 3): The story of Ariel, a Middle Eastern refugee who lives with an adoptive family in Sunday, West Virginia, is juxtaposed against those of a schizophrenic bomber, the diaries of a failed arctic expedition from the late nineteenth century, and a depressed, bionic reincarnated crow.

Why: It's a new Andrew Smith title, and the first of two he'll publish this year. This one is more along the lines of Grasshopper Jungle than Winger on the weird/strange scale. 

Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story by David Levithan (March 17): Larger-than-life Tiny Cooper finally gets to tell his story, from his fabulous birth and childhood to his quest for true love and his infamous parade of ex-boyfriends, in the form of a musical he wrote.

Why: This is the companion to Will Grayson, will grayson, but it's Tiny Cooper's story. This is told in an alternate format, as well. 

The Cemetery Boys by Heather Brewer (March 30): When Stephen moves to the small, midwestern town where his father grew up, he quickly falls in with punk girl Cara and her charismatic twin brother, Devon. But the town has a dark secret, and the twins are caught in the middle of it.

Why: Heather Brewer is perennially popular, and this is a brand new stand-alone paranormal story from her. 

Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver (March 10): Two sisters inexorably altered by a terrible accident, a missing nine-year-old girl, and the shocking connection between them.

Why: Despite the fact I haven't seen too many rave reviews of this one -- not have I seen a lot of talk about it more broadly -- it's a brand new Lauren Oliver book, and she's always popular. 

Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein (March 31): Having moved to Ethiopia to avoid the prejudices of 1930s America, Emilia Menotti, her black adoptive brother Teo, and their mother Rhoda, a stunt pilot, are devoted to their new country even after war with Italy looms, drawing the teens into the conflict.

Why: New Elizabeth Wein is why enough. 

Continue reading...

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Giveaway: All The Rage by Courtney Summers

Last fall I talked a little bit about why Courtney Summers's upcoming All The Rage needs to be on your radar. Now that there's an outstanding preorder campaign going on, wherein those who preorder the book can also pick up one of her backlist titles for free, I thought there was no better time to remind readers about this book and to offer up a giveaway.

I've talked extensively about how much I love Summers's raw, gripping, gritty fiction before. I've also talked about how she writes tremendous, flawed, and sometimes (often?) unlikable female characters

The quick pitch for this book is Speak meets Veronica Mars, but it's more than a quick pitch. This is a book about shame, about rape culture, and about how girls are victims of a world that doesn't want to believe their stories. It's feminist, it's richly written, and it's just earned its second starred review (one from Kirkus and one from Publishers Weekly). This is a book that will generate discussion and it's one that should be read by teens and those who work with teens alike. 

I'll write more about this book when release date -- April 14 -- is closer, but in the mean time and in honor of the fact that you can get two of Summers books for the price of one, I'm going to give away two preorders. This is open to US and Canadian residents. I'll draw winners in mid-March and let you know you've won, order the book, as well as put in the request for your backlist title. 

If you're stuck on which preorder title you want, I can assure you there's not a wrong choice. 

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Guest Post: On Writing Realistic, Flawed Parents in YA by Bryan Bliss (& giveaway of NO PARKING AT THE END TIMES)

I'm really excited to share this guest post from debut author Bryan Bliss today. Bliss is the author of No Parking at the End Times, which I wrote about earlier this week. When I finished the book, I couldn't stop thinking about the portrayal of the parents in this story, and I asked if he'd be interested in talking a bit more about parents in YA fiction. It's a topic that comes up in terms of parents being bad pretty frequently, but rarely do we look at parental intentions in YA fiction -- what if parents aren't bad but don't always come off in the best light, despite doing what they think is right?

Enjoy this thoughtful post and at the end, you have the chance to win a copy of Bliss's novel.

Bryan Bliss is the author of No Parking at the End Times. He has worked with teenagers for more than ten years and holds an MFA from Seattle Pacific University. This is his first novel. You can find him on Twitter @brainbliss. 

When people read my debut novel, No Parking at the End Times, the first thing I hear is some combination of: Those awful parents! and Somebody call Child Protective Services! As they make mistake after mistake (most of which would be unforgivable on their own), and continue risking everything because of the misguided prophecy of a radio preacher… let’s just say that readers don’t exactly empathize with them.

And I get it, I really do. Facebook alone gives me enough reason to seek out blood pressure medication. Stories about parents who take their daughters – and its always the daughters – to purity balls are guaranteed to get my blood going. Yet, whenever somebody gets in a huff about the parents in my novel, I pause and immediately think: Yeah, but

From the very beginning, I wanted No Parking to be a story about a girl losing faith in her parents. Granted, it would happen on a bigger scale than most of us will ever face. But that rush of understanding – when and how a teenager transitions to the reality that her parents are not perfect – is so real, so painful, it fueled every moment of the book. But it left me with a challenging quandary: what do you do with parents who – arguably – have ruined the lives of their children? How do you write about the people you’d usually mock on Facebook?

The problem, of course, is that many parents in young adult fiction are not flawed. Sure, they have cute issues – you know the type. Oh Dad, you’re so goofy! Mom! Stop trying to buy me all these clothes… I don’t want to wear a dress! These central-casting problems can easily be spun as authentic in the pages of a novel. They become subplots, little moments that challenge the main character in-between bigger plot points.

And that’s fine. I’m not going to talk badly about these characters. 

But I want more. A lot more. 

I want to see the perfect mom lose her shit at the school assembly. I want to see the dad who’s struggling to make rent accidentally – and regrettably – snap at his kids. I want parents who, in the pages of our novels, make real mistakes that actively and deeply affect the lives of their children. If we’re going to claim that young adult literature has depth – which it certainly does – we need to give our parents scars. We need real representations of the adults in most teenagers’ lives. We need them to be fallible. And we need to understand why they are that way.

A case could be made that there are already plenty of flawed parents in young adult literature. Richie, from Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park immediately comes to mind. Is there a more despised character in YA? For me, no. But is Richie flawed or is he a villain? For some, the line between the two is blurred – and not to our benefit. I struggle to find the moment when Richie is ever supportive, when he shows me that he is a loving adult for the children and teenagers in that story. 

And that’s why the vitriol for the parents in No Parking is so confounding. In their own confused way, they are trying to do the right thing for their kids. Their belief system tells them that – if they sell everything, if they really believe – they will be rewarded. So when the End doesn’t come – when a desperate family has its only answer taken away – what do they do? 

They stay. Of course they stay. This is their answer. What happens if they leave and then the Rapture happens? What then? No matter what anybody says, I will argue this point until I am out of breath. They stay.

Because they are good parents. They are confused parents. They are flawed parents. In my mind, these three things are inextricable and necessary. To use the parents in my novel simply as a way to mock their belief – without realizing how much pain they’re in, how worried they really are – is not only a mistake for the story, but also for the readers.

If we’re going to create believable adults in young adult literature, we need to be brave enough to not only write unlikable and flawed parents – but to write them with the same care and compassion we bring to Nuclear Mom and Dad.  If we don’t, we’re in danger of teaching teenagers that adulthood means finally having all of our shit worked out.

But I’m still not there. Are you?


Want to win a copy of Bliss's No Parking at the End Times? I'll give away two finished copies sometime mid-March. As long as you can get books from the Book Depository, you can enter!

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