Friday, April 27, 2012

Why I Read YA (aka how to get published in your high school's newspaper)

Guys, this was a big week for me.   Why?  Well, I got published.  In my high school's newspaper.  I KNOW.  One step away from a Pulitzer!   While I haven't been working on posts that I was supposed to post a long time ago (I'm looking at you, Anne of Green Gables), I was writing this, and being edited by an awesome and thoughtful teenage journalist.  My students are the best!  

You may have seen the buzz about YA being acceptable/unacceptable fare for adults all over the news.  If not, now you know!  You're welcome.  You can also find out more about the debate at the YALSA blog on YA, The Hub, where a recent post titled "Consensus is Building: It's Okay to Read YA," compiles a bunch of articles and postings on the debate.  Here are my two cents on the YA is acceptable for adults debacle the Internet has been having of late:

Why I Read YA

Recently, the New York Times online column “Room for Debate” posted a topic in response to the newly released Hunger Games movie. The topic: “The Power of Young Adult Fiction.” That young adult fiction (YA) can be powerful was not news to me; you could say that reading and being familiar with young adult fiction is a professional responsibility. But is it a hardship? Nope. Do I enjoy it? Definitely. I have to admit I took the bait and was a little peeved when I read Joel Stein’s take, titled “Adults Should Read Adult Books. “I’m here to address Mr. Stein and tell you, why I, a real, live, honest-to-goodness adult, proudly admit to reading and even enjoying YA fiction.
Let’s overlook the easily dispelled logical flaws in the “adults should only read adult books” argument, because using this logic, men should only read books about men, parents should never read books to their children, and, not being a hobbit, I should never have read The Lord of the Rings. Mr. Stein makes one solid, albeit short-sighted point. He says, “Books are one of our few chances to learn.” He’s right, books are a great way to learn; isn’t that what most people here do all day, using some form of text? However, learning opportunities provided by books are not limited just to literal lessons about science, math, throwing a really good tea party in Boston Harbor, or structuring an excellent sentence (hint: not like this). Books, for all ages and all reading levels, allow us to travel through time and space, to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, all while sitting at home. They offer an opportunity to empathize with and understand someone by being immersed in his/her story. Books allow us to develop problem-solving skills without actually having a major problem on our hands. Books help you identify characteristics and traits you want in friends, or even in yourself. They make you laugh, they make you cry, and they make you feel, regardless of what age group they are marketed to. Books? They open your mind.  

Mr. Stein, it is the truth that most required high school fiction fits into the ‘written for adults’ category. Books likeJane EyreNative Son, and Great Expectations are beautifully written, with rich description, evocative language, and thought-provoking topics. But what about To Kill a Mockingbird and The Catcher in the Rye? Though you eschew books for teens, perhaps you’ve heard of them. With teenage protagonists and strong coming-of-age themes, I guarantee that if these books were published today, you would find them on the young adult shelves of your local bookstore. And you know what else? I guarantee you they would be in good company.
I may be biased, but there is some powerful stuff popping up in the YA fiction market. Say what you will aboutHarry Potter and Twilight, but their success opened doors for authors to try new things. Frankly, I’m not sure a publisher would have taken a risk on The Hunger Games without those two. These open doors have led to some truly powerful YA fiction. Mr. Stein, I dare you to read Stolen, by Lucy Christopher, and not be haunted by the desert and be left feeling like you, too, are recovering from Stockholm syndrome. I dare you to read The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, by M.T. Anderson, and deny that it is elegant, heartbreaking historical fiction. I dare you to try to read Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking trilogy slowly, ignoring the questions of ethics, morality, and humanity. I dare you to read Sherman Alexie’s Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time-Indianwithout crying and laughing (craughing?) at the same time. I’d go on, but we’d be here for days.
I am a firm believer that independent reading is hugely important, both for learning and for a three letter word: FUN. Sure, not every teen book will help you score a 2400 on the SAT, but neither will all adult books. Both adults and teens are incredibly busy, and rarely have an abundance of time to sleep, let alone read for pleasure. I enjoy some gorgeously written books that could double as a doorstop, but appreciate being able to finish a book in a week or two, with spare time to do other things like sleep. When I have only ten minutes to read something, I want to enjoy it. If I can find a fantastic story, engaging characters, and great writing in under 400 pages, I’m game, even if it’s not an adult book. For speed, entertainment, and writing that is daring and occasionally beautiful, I often turn to YA. Mr. Stein, I encourage you to lighten up, join us, and read a YA novel. Who knows, maybe it’ll even help you open your mind.
Read “The Power of Young Adult Fiction” online at

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tidbits: Good vs. bad ideas by Hollywood, pr-E-views, mini-mashups

  • Queen Mary had a thing for dollhouses, and as everyone who is someone knows, no house regardless of size is complete without a library.  QM's library redefines the term pocket book, and answers a very important Zoolander question.  These dollhouse books are unbelievably cute!  And also, how did they make them so tiny?!??  Read about it at the first link, or tour the dollhouse library at this link.   [via Parathentical]
  •  Have you always harbored a secret desire to replace steal Gilbert from Anne? Hear Captain Wentworth tell you that you pierce his heart?  Rest easy, daydreamer.  You can now special order a copy of a classic book with your name, and that of your friends/family/part-time lovers in the place of the characters.  BONUS: the company also does romance novels.  Best gag gift ever?  Bonus BONUS:  Oh, snap.  They also have a category called "vampire."  I can't even...[via GalleyCat]

  • The first twentish pages of Maggie Stiefvater's newest book, Raven Boys, is up on EW for your perusal.
  • Ditto for an pr-E-view of  The Book of Blood and Shadow, by Robin Wasserman (who I met once, and who was very very nice!).
  • Bad idea by Hollywood:  Robert Pattinson as Finnick Odiar?  Please, no.   
  • Good idea by Hollywood: Oooh, I have spotted the moste curiouse tweet from Patrick Ness regarding the script for The Knife of Never Letting Go (I'm still nervous about it, even after Hunger Games didn't stink):

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Case of the Terribles: Tak Ball

I created a lot of games involving throwing balls at my younger siblings delicate, sweet little heads or chasing them into pricker bushes as a child.  
Naturally, they have great respect for me as we've all crept into adulthood.  
My brother brought the following game, a term I'm using loosely here, to my attention.  
You know, in case I wanted to play with them again.
Ladies and Gents, here is Tak Ball:
Serious, contemplative question here: how do they keep running?  
I'm pretty sure if I got tazed, I'd need a diaper change.  
How is this even a thing?  Is it real?  I'm too afraid to search the googles.  And does Tak stand for attack?  Or tachycardia? Because the second makes way more sense.  
Why, America.  WHY?

A Middlemarch summary is on the way eventually, as are my deep deep thoughts on the merrits of hot wrapples, and hot Will Ladislaw. 

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Selection, by Kiera Cass: When The Bachelor does Dystopia, we ALL win

The Selection
by Kiera Cass
HarperTeen, 2012 (available 4/24/12)

In this highly anticipated vision of the future, the United States is no longer a democracy.  Monarchy has returned and a caste system is now in place with social groups rated one (highest) to eight (lowest).  Straight shooting and musically talented America Singer and her large family are fives, artisan class.  When The Selection is announced, a reality show to find teenage Prince Maxon a wife and a future Queen, America feels obligated to enter.  Entrants are well compensated for their participation, and her family can use the money.  But America is madly in love with her secret boyfriend, Aspen, a six, servant class, and for the obvious reasons is hesitant to enter.  Aspen clears the way when he breaks up with her instead of proposing; his pride can’t bear to drag her down a caste level.  Soon America is flying off to the palace with 34 other contestants, one from each province, to compete to win the heart and hand of Prince Maxon.  But things in the palace are not as they seem to be on a TV screen; there are frequent attacks by rebels, not to mention learning to navigate the new royal caste expectations, trying to make friends in a tinderbox, and trying to fall in love with a broken heart.  This book has high pop appeal (a TV pilot has already been filmed), and should find its way into all YA collections with high demand anticipated from girls (11-16) and adults when the pilot airs.

Guys – I think we can all cop to the obvious.  A summary of the basics of this plot is like a recipe for Paperblog kryptonite.   It’s basically The Bachelor meets The Prince and Me meets a beauty pageant meets a girly version of dystopia meets the CW meets fantasies of Kate Middleton and Prince William’s wedding, shaken, and served in a glass labeled: Strong Potential for Highly Addictive Case of the Terribles.  HOW COULD I SAY NO?  Now, before I go much further, I’ll make a disclaimer:  I have not actually finished this book (my copy is not a complete one), and the origins of my copy, while legit and legal, are slightly not directly from the publisher.  Let’s just say the bidding war paid off for all of our curiosity about this buzzed about book (and don’t worry, HarperTeen legal department, I’m not passing it on...unless of course you want to send me a real ARC, which I’d be delighted to pass on to my many, always eager to read fun things teenage students…). 

Now that we’ve cleared that up and all the boys have stopped reading, let’s debrief. 

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