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1. Sara Sargent: Cutting Edge Young Adult Fiction


Sara Sargent is an executive editor at HarperCollins Children's Books. She's published Deb Caletti, Jennifer Echols, Julie Cross, Aaron Karo and Martina Boone, and she acquires everything from picture books through young adult.

YA editors are wondering what's next when it comes to trends. Books that are hitting shelves today were acquired 12 to 24 months ago. It's true that you shouldn't write to trends. Today's trends will be over when your book comes out. Also, books that aren't written from the heart won't be as good.

"My list is only as good as the books you write."

Sara started at HC a year ago to develop books teens really want to read. She wanted to know what made teens tick, and what drives their purchasing habits. "What could I do to make sure the books I was publishing today reflected the teens of today?"

Publishers were publishing books for millennials and Gen Z—the one that follows millennials. Here's some marketing data:
  • First generation to be majority nonwhite
  • Average attention span is 8 seconds
  • They use on average five devices (phone, laptop, desktop, tv, table) 
  • More tolerable of gender diversity than previous generations
It's good to research teens to understand what they want. There are a number of things to research: their music, their pop culture interests, their ideas about sex and identity, what they worry about, what their school lives are like (among many other things). 

What makes her reject a manuscript?
One that feels like it's a book the authors are writing for the teens they were. You need to make it your business to know what would make a teen want to buy it. 

Immerse yourself in teen culture. Watch a lot of YouTube. See what kids are watching. Read advertising industry articles. Subscribe to the AdWeek emails—they have lots of interesting articles on the topics. Download apps. Books are competing with other media for attention, and it's important to know your competition. 

She creates separate social media accounts she uses to follow people. You can use it just for work to follow celebrities and such. See what they're talking about and how they're galvanizing their fans. 

"We need to cozy up to our audience. We need to understand and know them, and—dare I say—love them." 

What does cutting edge mean? 
Among other things: Something that pushes the envelope as a taboo, something that experiments with form, something that makes adults uncomfortable, one that turns traditional relationships upside-down, one that portrays a broader set of experiences. "Innovative and pioneering. Those are great words." 

Rethink storylines. Surprise her. "I know I'm reading something cutting edge when I can feel my brain carving a new path, rather than going on autopilot."

Something innovative builds on the pre-existing canon. "Read, read, and read some more." 

You want to find a new way to express something universal. 

Find her online at sarasargent.wordpress.com and on Twitter and Instagram as @Sara_Sargent.

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2. My Thoughts: A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

5 yummy chocolate chip cookies.

Cover Love:
This one is ok.  It's not my favorite, but I do love the colors.

Why I Wanted to Read This:
I just loved the concept--descendants of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson in a modern day boarding school.  I just couldn't wait to give it a try! Here's the synopsis from GoodReads:

The last thing Jamie Watson wants is a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, a Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. But that’s not the only complication: Sherringford is also home to Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s great-great-great-granddaughter, who has inherited not only Sherlock’s genius but also his volatile temperament. From everything Jamie has heard about Charlotte, it seems safer to admire her from afar.

From the moment they meet, there’s a tense energy between them, and they seem more destined to be rivals than anything else. But when a Sherringford student dies under suspicious circumstances, ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Jamie can no longer afford to keep his distance. Jamie and Charlotte are being framed for murder, and only Charlotte can clear their names. But danger is mounting and nowhere is safe—and the only people they can trust are each other.
Romance?: A little.

My Thoughts:
I love this world--one that actually had Watson and Holmes.  One that has descendants of both of them.  Jamie Watson had daydreams about meeting up with Charlotte from the time he was young and realized that there was a Holmes his age in the world.  When they finally meet up at an American boarding school it's not a match made in heaven.  A murder at the school brings them together especially when it looks like they are being framed.  They start working together and the rest goes down in Holmes/Watson history!

This author nailed Holmes personality in Charlotte, but she also gave her a little vulnerability.  This book is written from Watson's point of view, which the author also nails.  She did her homework.  The murders all have elements of cases from famous Sherlock Holmes/John Watson which is what brings Charlotte and Jamie together.  They work on finding the culprit, but in true Holmes fashion, Charlotte only tells Jamie the barest minimum of what he needs to know.  She makes him figure a lot out on his own.

While there isn't a romance, Jamie definitely has a crush on Charlotte, but it's born of respect, not lust. I just loved the dynamics between these two.  The mystery is also strong, I didn't have it figured out at all.  There were a lot of twists and turns.

To Sum Up: This was a really fun read and I look forward to the next two books in this trilogy.  Because of some mature subject materials I will be book talking this one for my older readers this fall.

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3. Road Trip Reading #2 & Weekend Reading #10


This weekend we are driving three hours away to watch our son play in a senior showcase soccer game.  It will be a down and back in one day trip and my husband is driving, which means I am going to be reading!  

What are you reading this weekend?

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4. My Thoughts: Summer Days and Summer Nights edited by Stephanie Perkins

3 chocolate whoopie pies.

Cover Love:  Yes, I love this cover.  I love that it looks like a summer camp and that each picture is a couple from the story.  I love these short story collections!

Why I Wanted to Read This:
I LOVED My True Love Gave to Me, which was a short story anthology of holiday romance stories.  I was very excited when I saw that this one was coming out and super excited to read it.  Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

Maybe it's the long, lazy days, or maybe it's the heat making everyone a little bit crazy. Whatever the reason, summer is the perfect time for love to bloom. Summer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories, written by twelve bestselling young adult writers and edited by the international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins, will have you dreaming of sunset strolls by the lake. So set out your beach chair and grab your sunglasses. You have twelve reasons this summer to soak up the sun and fall in love.

Romance?: Of course!

My Thoughts:
I didn't love this book as well as My True Love Gave to Me.  These stories weren't bad, but they didn't have the same feel to me as the holiday stories.  I can't put my finger on it, but I just didn't love it.  My favorite story was the one by Cassandra Clare, Brand New Attraction.  I liked Leigh Bardugo also, Head, Scales, Tongue, Tail.  Both of these had a supernatural element, which made them fun to read.  (Actually, a lot of these stories had supernatural elements).

I read Souvenirs by Tim Ferdle around the same time my oldest son (who just graduated from high school) was deciding to break up with his long term girlfriend.  There were a couple lines in that story I quoted to him because it was hard on both him and her when they broke up.  I don't think the lines helped them, but I felt they were perfect for the situation.

I also liked that there were stories by authors I have never read yet.  That's one thing I really like about these new anthologies.

This book just didn't give me quite the same feeling as the holiday stories book.  I didn't get that feeling of being young and in love and in the summertime that I was hoping for.  But, I know that these stories will be very popular with younger readers who will get that feeling.

To Sum Up:  I will be buying this for my library and encouraging the girls looking for something a little different to give this one a try!

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5. Book Review: The Memory of Light by Francisco X Stork

Title: The Memory of Light
Author: Francisco X Stork
Published: 2016
Source: Edelweiss

Summary: After a suicide attempt, Victoria lands in a mental hospital. As she reluctantly returns to life, and then starts to pursue it with more energy, she finds herself drawn to other teenage patients, all the with their own problems, and starts to accept that she's not weak, a failure, or oversensitive - she has a disease.

First Impressions: Lovely and quiet examination of recovery and mental illness. I would like to read some perspective on this book's attitude toward medication.

Later On: Somebody I follow on twitter will often post that depression is a liar, and the biggest lie it can tell you is that you're not depressed. The biggest lie that Victoria has to fight is that she has no right to be depressed. She spends a large part of the early book telling herself that she has a good life, a nice house, wealthy parents, and just because her mother died several years before, that's no reason to be depressed. But depression, as with all mental illness, needs no reason. It just is. Coming to that realization marks a turning point for Victoria, as does acknowledging that the pressures of her life pre-suicide attempt were exacerbating her illness.

As I mentioned above, the way medication is and isn't portrayed as part of treatment surprised me somewhat. (Full disclosure - while I know people who have been in treatment for depression, I've never had first-hand experience, so that's the limit of my knowledge.) Victoria doesn't go on medication as part of her treatment, which took me a little aback. Dr. Desai, her therapist, focuses more on analysis and identifying the spiraling negative thoughts that drag Vicky down. I know that medication isn't right for everyone, and therapy and analysis are as important as medication even for those who are on it.

However, I think that there's such a powerful public perception that "pills fix depression" that I would have liked to hear a little more discussion within the book or in an author's note as to why this wasn't part of Vicky's treatment, especially when medication is shown to help others within the story. But that's my personal question.

More: Waking Brain Cells

This review at Latin@s in Kidlit goes more in-depth, and also links to a great article on how mental illness is viewed in the Latino culture.
 Over at Disability in Kidlit, Kelly Jensen (the Twitter person I mentioned above) writes movingly about her experience of depression, starting as a teen.

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6. How To Be A Model Moderator

Hi all! Stacey here with my buddy and fellow PubCrawler Stephanie Garber. There may come a time in your life where you will be asked to moderate a panel or facilitate a discussion. Here are our ten hot tips for moderating success.

1) Read the panelists’ books. The best panels in my opinion are the ones in which the moderator asks questions tailored to the author’s works. Obviously, this isn’t always possible, but at least be familiar with the book’s main ideas and stand out points. Don’t be afraid to ask your panelists’ publicists for books. It’s in the publishers’ interests for you to be informed about their author’s works. My secret weapon is to listen to the panelists’ audiobooks, when available. You can make your commute go by faster, and you can listen to them at 3x speed.

2) Send questions ahead of time. Some panelists can answer questions easily on the fly; others would rather visit the dentist than be unprepared. The more you can make your panelists comfortable, the easier time you will have facilitating a conversation.

3) Introduce your authors using the same tone and length. Often moderators will simply read an author’s bio for the introduction, but this invites problems. I recently participated in a panel where the moderator relied on our bios. My own is short and humorous, and doesn’t mention awards or distinctions, whereas the bio of the woman next to me mentioned every degree and award she had received. By contrast, I couldn’t help feeling like the village idiot. This might take a little work on your part to make your intros ‘match,’ but you’ll come across as more polished, and your authors will thank you.

(Note: I have encountered diva/divo panelists who want to be introduced a certain way. I tell them I will do my best, but make no promises. I firmly believe in treating every panelist with dignity and respect, and that means not putting one above the other).

I have spoken on panels where the moderator asks each author to introduce herself, which I find awkward and painful. Not everyone is comfortable talking about herself, and on the flip side, some authors can run at the mouth, viewing the intro as a way to self promote. You can avoid potential awkwardness by doing the honors.

4) Help your audience distinguish between panelists by presenting them as individuals. I have used labels such as, “a rising star,” “a thrilling new voice in contemporary fiction,” “a living legend,” “a NYT bestselling author.” Obviously, make sure your descriptions are complimentary.

5) Go with the flow. A recent panel I moderated featured two authors who were good friends and pros at public speaking. They had great chemistry, and meandered from topic to topic without much prompting from me. I had prepared questions in advance, but found myself needing to replace them with ones that were more natural to the conversation at hand. An additional challenge was to include the third panelist in the discussion as much as possible. This is where a good working knowledge of the authors and their books is essential, because sometimes you have to improvise, and the best way to improvise is to come prepared.

6) Resist letting authors read from their books. I personally find this a waste of time. The audience is there to learn something they can’t learn by merely picking up the book. Plus, not every author is good at, or comfortable with, reading out loud.

7) Remember, it’s not about you. As the moderator, your job is to guide conversations so that the panelists shine. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t bring yourself into the discussion by using examples from your own life to illustrate a particular question. And if you’re asking panelists individual questions, they love it when you’re able to sincerely mention how much something in their writing resonated with you.

8) The moderator sets the tone for the panel, so be personable and engaging. Think of yourself as the first sentence of a novel, the thing that pulls readers into the story. It’s the job of the moderator to engage the attention of every guest in the room.

9) Repeat questions asked by the audience. Just because you can hear a question doesn’t mean the entire room can hear it. Repeating the question also gives your panelists a little more time to think about their answers.

10) Try to have a little fun! Everyone appreciates humor, so if at all possible, weave some into your questions and your introductions—as long as your humor is respectful to the panelists.

Swati Avasthi does a brilliant job moderating a panel at the Multnomah Library that includes myself, Tess Sharpe and Isabel Quintero.

Swati Avasthi does a brilliant job moderating a panel at the Multnomah Library that includes myself, Tess Sharpe and Isabel Quintero.

In the comments, let us know if you’ve seen a good moderator recently. Why was s/he good? What things could the moderator have improved upon?

 

 

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7. THE PASSION OF DOLSSA by Julie Berry // Slow but Gooooood

Review by Andye THE PASSION OF DOLSSAby Julie BerryAge Range: 12 - 17 yearsGrade Level: 7 and upHardcover: 496 pagesPublisher: Viking Books for Young Readers (April 12, 2016)Audible Audio EditionListening Length: 11 hours and 42 minutesProgram Type: AudiobookVersion: UnabridgedPublisher: Listening LibraryGoodreads | Amazon | Audible I must write this account, and when I have finished, I will

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8. WHEN WE COLLIDED by Emery Lord // Heartbreakingly Beautiful, A Tornado At Sunset...

By Becca... WHEN WE COLLIDED  By Emery Lord Hardcover: 352 Pages Publisher: Bloomsbury (April 5, 2016) Language: English Age Range: 14 and Up Goodreads | Amazon Meet Vivi and Jonah: A girl and a boy whose love has the power save or destroy them.Vivi and Jonah couldn't be more different. Vivi craves anything joyful or beautiful that life can offer. Jonah has been burdened by responsibility

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9. FIRSTLIFE by Gena Showalter \\ Fun, Fast, and Full of Action

Review by Natalie FIRSTLIFEEverlife #1by Gena ShowalterSeries: An Everlife NovelHardcover: 480 pagesPublisher: Harlequin Teen (February 23, 2016)Language: EnglishGoodreads | Amazon Tenley "Ten" Lockwood is an average seventeen-year-old girl…who has spent the past thirteen months locked inside the Prynne Asylum. The reason? Not her obsession with numbers, but her refusal to let her parents

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10. Four Depictions of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in YA

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a disorder that develops in some people after they’ve witnessed a shocking or traumatic event. People experience shock after traumatic events, but those who don’t recover from the initial shock are more likely to develop PTSD. After a distressing or upsetting event, it’s important to seek support.

While literature cannot take the place of a support group or therapy, it can help us process grief and trauma. Teens are not immune to PTSD, and several YA novels explore this disorder in different ways: through fantasy, dystopia, or realistic fiction. Some are from the perspective of the person suffering, while others explore what it’s like to be a family member or friend.

Here is a list of four young adult books that deal with PTSD:

Four Depictions of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder


 

Trail of the Dead by Joseph Bruchac – In the follow-up to Killer of Enemies, Apache teenager Lozen protects her family and friends as they travel in search of refuge in a post-apocalyptic world. Though Lozen has only taken the lives of others to protect herself and her family, the killings take a toll on her spirit and Lozen finds herself with what her people call “enemy sickness,” another name for PTSD. With the support of her friends and family, she is healed in a ceremony that reflects the traditional healing of her Apache ancestors.

Purchase the series here.


The Impossible Knife of Memory The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson – Hayley Kincaid and her father have moved around a lot in the past five years due to his job working on the road. They return to his hometown so that Hayley can have a shot at a normal life. However, after her father’s tours in Iraq, he developed PTSD. Hayley isn’t sure if being in her father’s hometown will help with his PTSD, or push him over the edge.


Melting StonesMelting Stones by Tamora Pierce – Evvy and
Rosethorn are sent to the island of Starns to help residents with a dormant volcano. While there, Evvy has flashes of a war from which she recently escaped.


Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers – After his dreams of attending college fall through, Perry, a teenager from Harlem, decides to volunteer for the service and joins the Vietnam War. Perry and his platoon are sent to the front lines and come face-to-face with the horrors of war. Perry begins to questions why black troops are given the most dangerous assignments and why the U.S. is in Vietnam at all.


Resources:

National Institute of Mental Health: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

National Institute of Mental Health: Helping Children and Adolescents Cope with Violence and Disasters: What Community Members Can Do

PTSD Alliance

PTSD: National Center for PTSD

American Academy of Pediatrics: Promoting Adjustment and Helping Children Cope After Disaster and Crisis


Read More:

Why I Love to Read Sad and Dark Books to Children (and You Should Too)

Talking to Kids About Current Events and Conflicts

Turning to Story After the Sandy Hook Shooting

Connecting Teens with the Authors They Love

What are some other YA novels that deal with PTSD? Please share in the comments.

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11. GLASS SWORD by Victoria Aveyard \\ Book & Audiobook Review

Review by Krista Glass Sword (Red Queen #2) by Victoria Aveyard Length: 14 hrs and 39 mins  Narrated By Amanda Dolan   Series: Red Queen, Book 2  Release Date: 02-09-16  If there’s one thing Mare Barrow knows, it’s that she’s different.Mare Barrow’s blood is red—the color of common folk—but her Silver ability, the power to control lightning, has turned her into a weapon that the royal

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12. STONE FIELD by Christy Lenzi \\ A Wuthering Heights Retelling

Review by Krista  STONE FIELDby Christy LenziInspired by Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. Hardcover: 320 pagesPublisher: Roaring Brook Press (March 29, 2016)Language: English Goodreads | Amazon A stunning debut novel that offers a new look at a classic love story about soul mates torn apart by the circumstances of their time.Catrina Dickinson is haunted by her past and

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13. FIFTEEN LANES by S.J. Laidlaw (Tundra Books, launching April/2016)

Just finished FIFTEEN LANES by S.J. Laidlaw (a.k.a. Susan Laidlaw), which comes out from Tundra Books/Penguin Random House on April 5th, 2016.

An intense and compelling read, FIFTEEN LANES follows the lives of two teenage girls from very different backgrounds. I found parts of the book difficult to get through because I felt so sad for the characters involved (one of the girls is the daughter of a sex worker in Mumbai, growing up in a brothel) but am so glad I kept reading. FIFTEEN addresses tough issues with honesty and hope.

It's no wonder the details and background are well-researched; the author herself works at an NGO facility in India, volunteering with sex workers' daughters in Kamathipura, the largest red-light district in Asia.

You can find out more about Susan and her work at SJLaidlaw.com, on Twitter at @SusanLaidlaw1 and on Facebook. I interviewed Susan about one of her other YA books, An Infidel In Paradise; you can read about her writing process and advice for young writers here.

Synopsis of FIFTEEN LANES from Tundra Books: "Noor has lived all of her fourteen years in the fifteen lanes of Mumbai’s red light district. Born into a brothel, she is destined for the same fate as her mother: a desperate life trapped in the city’s sex trade. She must act soon to have any chance of escaping this grim future. Across the sprawling city, fifteen-year-old Grace enjoys a life of privilege. Her father, the CEO of one of India’s largest international banks, has brought his family to Mumbai where they live in unparalleled luxury. But Grace’s seemingly perfect life is shattered when she becomes a victim of a cruel online attack. When their paths intersect, Noor and Grace will be changed forever. Can two girls living in vastly different worlds find a common path?

"Award-winning author S.J. Laidlaw masterfully weaves together their stories in a way that resonates across class and culture. Fifteen Lanes boldly explores the ties that bind us to places and people, and shows us that the strongest of bonds can be forged when hope is all but lost."

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14. GIRL IN THE BLUE COAT by Monica Hesse // Good Historical Mystery With Beautifully Written, Complex Characters

Review by Sara.. GIRL IN THE BLUE COAT By Monica Hesse Hardcover: 320 pages Published by: Little, Brown (April 5, 2016) Language: English Grades: 9 Up Goodreads | Amazon  An unforgettable story of bravery, grief, and love in impossible timesThe missing girl is Jewish. I need you to find her before the Nazis do. Amsterdam, 1943. Hanneke spends her days procuring and delivering

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15. THIEF OF LIES by Brenda Drake // A Library Jumpers Novel

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16. THE SMELL OF OTHER PEOPLE'S HOUSES by Bonnie - Sue Hitchcock \\ Weird Title, Great Book

Review by Jennifer THE SMELL OF OTHER PEOPLE'S HOUSESby Bonnie - Sue HitchcockGrade Level: 7 and upLexile Measure: 0960 (What's this?)Hardcover: 240 pagesPublisher: Wendy Lamb Books (February 23, 2016) Goodreads | Amazon In Alaska, 1970, being a teenager here isn’t like being a teenager anywhere else. This deeply moving and authentic debut is for fans of Rainbow Rowell, Louise Erdrich,

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17. FLAWED by Cecelia Ahern was Flawed, but Still a Good Dystopian Read

Review by Sara Flawed (Flawed #1)by Cecelia AhernAge Range: 12 - 18 yearsHardcover: 336 pagesPublisher: Feiwel & Friends (April 5, 2016)Goodreads | Amazon Celestine North lives a perfect life. She's a model daughter and sister, she's well-liked by her classmates and teachers, and she's dating the impossibly charming Art Crevan.But then Celestine encounters a situation in which she makes an

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18. Quick-Fire Review: ZERO DAY by Jan Gangsei \\ Mystery-Thriller!

by Andye ZERO DAYby Jan GangseiHardcover: 368 pagesPublisher: Disney-Hyperion (January 12, 2016)Language: English Goodreads | Amazon Eight years ago, Addie Webster was the victim of the most notorious kidnapping of the decade. Addie vanished-and her high-profile parents were forced to move on. Mark Webster is now president of the United States, fighting to keep the oval office after a

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19. Review of The Smell of Other People’s Houses

hitchcock_smell of other people's housesThe Smell of Other People’s Houses
by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock
Middle School, High School   Lamb/Random   228 pp.
2/16   978-0-553-49778-6   $17.99
Library ed. 978-0-553-49779-3   $20.99   g
e-book ed. 978-0-553-49780-9   $10.99

Through sensory details that viscerally evoke the story’s physical and emotional landscapes, readers are transported to 1970s Birch Park, Alaska, where hunting and fishing are both livelihood and way of life for most families. As the book’s title suggests, richly described scents are pervasive. Sixteen-year-old Ruth associates the smell of freshly cut deer meat with her happy early-childhood home, in sharp contrast to the clinical, Lemon Pledge–clean of Gran’s house, where she and her sister have been raised in rigid austerity since their father’s death. A wealthy family’s lake house smells of cedar, while the heavily trafficked Goodwill “smells like everyone’s mud room in spring…moldy and sweaty.” Four distinct first-person narrative voices — no small feat — breathe life into the adolescent protagonists, whose engaging individual stories, thematically linked by loss and yearning throughout the seasons, are enriched by their intersections. Escaping her alcoholic father’s abuse and mother’s neglect, Dora finds a welcome haven in the bustling energy of Dumpling’s family’s fish camp. A few stolen nights with handsome Ray Stevens lands Ruth scared, alone, and pregnant on a bus to Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow, an abbey with unexpected ties to her family. While some character crossings strain credulity, all the story lines are grounded in emotional honesty.

From the January/February 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

The post Review of The Smell of Other People’s Houses appeared first on The Horn Book.

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20. Not your average problem novel

Facing illness, sexuality, family issues, and life-and-death situations, the following teen protagonists maturely and deeply explore the world around them while also looking within themselves.

downham_unbecomingUntil the hospital called, asking her mother to pick up elderly Mary, seventeen-year-old Katie — star of Jenny Downham’s Unbecoming — didn’t even know she had a grandmother. Katie, her brother, and their mum bring home Mary, who is suffering from dementia. As Katie learns more about her grandmother’s and mother’s pasts, she struggles with her own secret: she is pretty certain she is gay. Told from a limited third-person perspective, the book offers implicit commentary on the historical and contemporary constraints on young women’s lives and their freedom to love freely. (Scholastic/Fickling, 14 years and up)

mcgovern_rules for 50-50 chancesIn Kate McGovern’s Rules for 50/50 Chances, Rose’s mom has advanced Huntington’s disease and Caleb’s mom and little sisters have sickle cell disease. The teens meet at the annual Walk for Rare Genes fundraiser, and their immediate attraction soon develops into something more meaningful. Rose spends much of the novel locked in indecision about whether or not to be tested for the Huntington’s gene, and what the results will mean for her future plans: college, a dance career, a relationship with Caleb. Rose’s realistically confused and complex anger and grief about her mother’s decline adds poignancy to the teen’s dilemma. (Farrar, 14 years and up)

kain_instructions for the end of the worldIn Instructions for the End of the World by Jamie Kain, Nicole’s father is a survivalist who believes wilderness skills are the surest protection from a dangerous world. When Dad decides to leave the grid altogether, moving the family to a ramshackle forest homestead, Mom balks and runs off. Dad goes after her, leaving Nicole and her younger sister, Izzy, behind. Nicole worries about Izzy’s involvement with teens living at a nearby commune; at the same time a brooding resident there named Wolf stirs up her own rebellious yearnings. Most chapters feature multiple narrators (Nicole, Izzy, Wolf, and others), but Nicole’s voice provides a steady through line to follow her genuine and compelling struggle. (St. Martin’s Griffin, 14 years and up)

hitchcock_smell of other people's housesSensory details (especially scents) evoke the physical and emotional landscape — 1970s Birch Park, Alaska — in Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock’s The Smell of Other People’s Houses. Four distinct first-person narrative voices breathe life into the adolescent protagonists. Escaping her alcoholic father’s abuse, Dora finds a welcome haven in Dumpling’s family’s fish camp. A few stolen nights with handsome Ray Stevens leaves sixteen-year-old Ruth pregnant and alone. The characters’ engaging individual stories, thematically linked by loss and yearning, are enriched by the tales’ intersections, and are grounded in emotional honesty. (Random/Lamb, 14 years and up)

From the February 2016 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

The post Not your average problem novel appeared first on The Horn Book.

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21. Anthony Lane on YA: a marketing wheeze

Every now and then, Anthony Lane, The New Yorker movie critic, will go in for the YA kill. He did it here, in his review of the movie "If I Stay," based on the Gayle Forman novel. And he did it again, just a few weeks ago, in his review of "The Fifth Wave."

I quote:

"The film is directed by J. Blakeson and adapted—though perhaps not adapted enough—from the novel by Rick Yancey. In other words, we are in the belly of young-adult fiction: a marketing wheeze dressed up as an art form...."

We have to hand it to Lane for the crisp cleverness of his phraseology. But I think we also have to ask: Is marketing wheeze how the YA category began, what it now is, what it is becoming, or simply an easy (outmoded) mode of attack?

The only way to defend this category from future Lane-isms is to write our stories unclassifiably well.

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22. Super Quick-Fire Review of RIDERS by Veronica Rossi (With Longer Video Review Option)

Review by Elisa   RIDERS by Veronica RossiPublisher: Tor Teen (February 16, 2016)Publication Date: February 16, 2016 Sold by: Macmillan  Goodreads  | Amazon For eighteen-year-old Gideon Blake, nothing but death can keep him from achieving his goal of becoming a U.S. Army Ranger. As it turns out, it does. Recovering from the accident that most definitely killed him, Gideon finds himself

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23. Read or Ditch: INTO THE DIM by Janet B. Taylor

by andye I was really excited to get INTO THE DIM by Janet B. Taylor in the mail. I love books about time travel, and this cover looked really great. When I read the description and it takes place in Scotland, I was really intrigued. HELLO! Outlander for teens?? Yes! But there have been quite a few things as I've been reading, made me think that this book isn't going to be for me. The first

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24. Most Dangerous - a review

Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin (2015) Roaring Brook Press

As he did with the spy, Harry Gold, in Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon, Steven Sheinkin uses one man to tell a much larger story in Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War.  That man is the infamous leaker of the so-called Pentagon Papers, Daniel Ellsberg.   A veteran himself, and a former Pentagon employee, Ellsberg initially believed that the war in Vietnam was a noble cause.  However, the more he learned, the less he believed so.  Eventually, based on the information to which he was privy and the US populace was not, he changed his mind completely.

Whether you believe Edward Snowden to be a patriotic whistleblower or a traitorous leaker, and whether you believe that Apple's refusal to hack into the phone of the San Bernardino murderers is reprehensible or ethical, it cannot be denied that these are weighty matters worthy of national discussion.  In the time of Daniel Ellsberg, people read newspapers and watched a generally unbiased nightly newscast.  In contrast, many people today derive their news from "sound bites," political analysts, and partisan news stations. These issues deserve more thoughtful consideration.

While Most Dangerous is an excellently researched biographical and historical account, and can be  appreciated for that aspect alone, Steve Sheinkin's book also will also promote reflection on the nature of national security, personal privacy, democracy, freedom of the press, and foreign intervention.  We have been on very similar ground before. 

Selected quotes:

page 149
"They all drove to the Capitol for the traditional outdoor inauguration ceremony.  Johnson watched Nixon take the oath of office, wondering what lay ahead.  "I reflected on how inadequate any man is for the office of the American Presidency," he later recalled.  "The magnitude of the job dwarfs every man who aspires to it.""

page 160
"He had often heard antiwar protesters shouting that Americans were fighting on the wrong side of the Vietnam War. They were missing the point. "It wasn't that we were on the wrong side," Ellsberg concluded, "We were the wrong side.""

FBI agents began questioning the Ellsbergs friends and relatives.  They even attempted to obtain Patricia Ellsberg's dental records, but her dentist refused to cooperate.  Nixon's operatives broke into the office of Daniel Ellsberg's doctor in a failed attempt to steal his medical records.  They were searching for anything to use in a campaign to discredit Ellsberg. 

page 263
 "Psychologically, it's not so bothersome, because we believe in what we're doing," Patricia Ellsberg said about the feeling of being watched by one's own government.  "But I think it's troublesome for the country that there is surveillance of citizens, and that the right of privacy is being threatened."

Read an excerpt from Most Dangerous here.
Awards and accolades:
Other Steve Sheinkin books reviewed on Shelf-employed

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25. American Ace by Marilyn Nelson

For Connor Bianchini, 16, much of his life has always revolved around his family and the family's restaurant, Mama Lucia's Home Cooking.  And he has always known exactly who is - half Irish on his mother's side of the family, half Italian on his father's.  But just before Nonna Lucia passed away, she gave Connor's father Tony a ring, some pilot's wings, and a letter explaining the her Italian husband was not his father.  His father was an American pilot named Ace, with whom she had an great love affair.

After his father gives him the gold ring, Connor begins thinking about the man who loved his grandmother so much.  The ring becomes a reminder for Connor to wonder who he is and it doesn't take long for him to start researching it to try to find his real grandfather's identity.  Engraved on the ring are the words The Forcean 1940 and the initials MS, providing a good place to start.

The rest of the Bianchini rally around Tony, providing family support and acceptance of his new half-brother status, but Tony has been thrown quite a loop.  With the help of a librarian at the local college, a book called The Forcean, which he thought might be related to the ring, was borrowed through inter-library loan.  When the book arrives, it turns out to be a college yearbook from Wilberforce University - one of the historically black colleges and universities (HBCU).

Already depressed over losing his mother and the family's matriarch, Tony has a stroke after finding out that his real father was African American.  While he is in the hospital recovering, Connor continues his investigations into his mysterious African American grandfather, and his grandmother great love.

Connor, unlike his half-brother Carlo, immediately embraces his new heritage and decides to write his senior honors paper on the Tuskegee Airmen after discovering that his grandfather had most likely been one, stationed in Italy at one point.

Nonna Lucia left quite a legacy for her family and it is interesting to see how the rest of the family handled it.  How would you have handled news that you are not who you think you are?

I have always loved Marilyn Nelson's stories in verse, but this one just didn't do it for me.  I would have much preferred a novel about the grandfather, and his experiences both before and after his time as a Tuskegee Airman in Italy and his affair with Nonna Lucia, how he might have dealt with issues around race and prejudice.  And while books about biracial families are so needed right now, the Bianchini's just felt too unreal for me, even Connor.

Much of the story revolves around Connor's driving lessons, first with his father and later his mother. Driving is, of course, a nice coming-of-age-entering-adulthood trope.  It is Connor who now becomes the caretaker, caring for his father much of the time after his stroke, helping him heal both physically and emotionally and enabling him to come to terms with his new identity with the information he has learned about Tuskegee Airmen for his honors paper.

The part of the book I really did like was the last sections in which we get to read Connor's paper, complete with photographs of actual Tuskegee Airmen, and the only indication of what Connor and his dad are doing in in the chapter heading and yet, it all worked.

Despite my objections, I still think this is a book that should be read by all.  And do read the Author's Note at the back of the novel, where Nelson explains how she came to write a novel from the perspective of a white teenage boy.  

This book is recommended for readers age 12+
This book was borrowed from the NYPL

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