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1. I Accidentally Read a Gayle Forman Book

by andye I Was HereBy Gayle FormanHardcover: 288 pagesPublisher: Viking Juvenile (January 27, 2015)Language: EnglishGoodreads | Amazon Cody and Meg were inseparable. Two peas in a pod. Until . . . they weren’t anymore. When her best friend Meg drinks a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated. She and Meg shared everything—

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2. Show Me The Teenagers - Liz Kessler


I guess this blog might be continuing that theme in a way. It’s about social networking. Only, this time, I want to pick your brains.

Next May, I make my YA debut with my novel Read Me Like A Book (which, incidentally, I just received the bound proofs for, and I am completely IN LOVE with this cover, designed and painted by my very talented artist friend Joe Greenaway.



This book is HUGELY important to me and I want to do everything I can to give it a good send off into the world. Because this is a brand new tack for me, I’ll be doing a lot of things differently. I’m already fairly active on Twitter and Facebook – and I do my monthly blog here – but there are all sorts on online hangouts that I know almost nothing about – and I think it’s time to get educated.

Currently, I use my author page on Facebook to write about my books, post lots of photos of sunrises and my dog and the sea, and have lovely chitchat about mermaids and faires and time travel, mainly with my readers, their parents, a few librarians and a bunch of supportive friends. On Twitter, it feels much more about chatting with my writing peers – other writers, bloggers, bookshop people etc. Think publishing party, only without getting drunk on free champagne and making a fool of yourself in front of the MD.

So that’s all well and good, and I enjoy it. But I want to spread my writerly wings. In particular, I want to talk to teenagers – and I don’t know where to find them!

So this is a question aimed mainly at teenagers, parents of teenagers, writers of books for teenagers who interact online…

Where are you? Where do you hang out? Which are your favourite online haunts? And what do look for or expect from in the different places you frequent?

I take a LOT of photos, and should probably be on Instagram. (In fact, I kind of am but I don’t really use it.) I have been told I should get onto Tumblr – and would love to go for it, but every time I glance at it, I feel overwhelmed and bewildered. I’m also kind of half-heartedly on Pinterest, but only so I can look for desks for my new office. And I have got a few videos on Youtube.

The thing is, though, when we try to keep up to date with ALL the places, there’s no time left to, well, you know, write the books. Which I kind of need to keep doing. So I don’t want to join them all. But I’d like to pick the best one (or at most, two) new social networking sites and give them a good go.

So, help me out here. What should I pick? What do you use? Where are my potential new teenage audience most likely to look for me? Any and all opinions on these questions will be gratefully received.


Thank you! :)


Follow Liz on Twitter
Join Liz's Facebook page

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3. A Letter to THE WALLED CITY by Ryan Graudin

by Becca THE WALLED CITYby Ryan GraudinHardcover: 448 pagesPublisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (November 4, 2014)Language: EnglishGoodreads | Amazon 730. That's how many days I've been trapped.18. That's how many days I have left to find a way out. DAI, trying to escape a haunting past, traffics drugs for the most ruthless kingpin in the Walled City. But in order to find the key

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4. Quick-Fire Review: FROZEN by Melissa De La Cruz

Review by Andye FROZENHeart of Dread #1by Melissa De La Cruz & Michael JohnstonAge Range: 12 and up Grade Level: 7 and upSeries: HEART OF DREAD (Book 1)Paperback: 352 pagesPublisher: Speak; Reprint edition (August 5, 2014)Goodreads | Amazon Welcome to New Vegas, a city once covered in bling, now blanketed in ice. Like much of the destroyed planet, the place knows only one temperature—freezing

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5. Come On. No One Else Gets A "Jane Eyre" Vibe Here?

When I was a teenager, I was a big fan of historical romance. In college, I would read Georgette Heyer during exam weeks to relax. As an adolescent, I really liked that "I hate you, I hate you, I hate you, Well, maybe you're not so bad" storyline in a historical setting. So I picked Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge off the Cybils Young Adult Speculative Fiction nomination list for one reason and one reason only: The main character has been raised to marry and murder a demon who has had control of her country since before she was born but falls for him before she can complete her task. Okay, it was paranormal and not historical, but I was dealing with a speculative fiction list, after all.

Now, though I seem to read a lot of fantasy, it's mainly because a lot of children's and YA books are fantasy. It's not because I'm so fond of it. I don't get excited about fantasy elements, as a general rule.  I'm not crazy about houses that are always changing, for instance, as the one in Cruel Beauty does. I was kind of mystified about who the Kindly Ones were in this book, especially since there seems to be an alternative Greek mythology thing going on here and where do the Kindly Ones fit in? But that didn't matter because the demon was very witty and clever and our protagonist wasn't a particularly nice person, which I like in a heroine.

Yes, Teen Gail would have loved this thing. Cruel Beauty should be on a list of teen vacation reading that is totally inappropriate for school papers. 

But If You Want To Write A School Paper On It, Try Talking About Jane Eyre


However, if someone really wants to sell this as a subject for a high school paper, I think they might be able to do a Jane Eyre comparison. Cruel Beauty is being marketed as a Beauty and the Beast meets Greek mythology tale, but I kept thinking of Jane Eyre.

Jane Eyre was not assigned reading for me when I was a teenager. I read it on my own, as I read a great many things back then. I did not find it particularly memorable, except for the scene where poor Jane sits on the sidelines during an evening event at Mr. Rochester's house. That probably speaks volumes about my adolescence. I didn't become a fan of Jane's until I re-read it in 2003 after reading The Eyre Affair. The Good Reading Fairy had hit it, and I've become a bit of a Jane Eyre groupy, looking for and reading retellings. Cruel Beauty may not be an intentional retelling, but I still think an enterprising student could make a case that would convince a teacher to at least accept a Beauty/Jane Eyre paper.

Jane Eyre is about a prickly young woman who doesn't inspire affection in traditional relationships, such as the one with her aunt. In the course of acquiring what is by the standards of her time a good education, she is not treated very well. She enters a wealthy (wealth is power) man's home as a governess. Said wealthy man is unhappy and bitter over the life he has been forced to live. These two damaged, unromantic people find something in each other.

Cruel Beauty is about a bitter, angry young woman, her father's least favorite child, the one he bartered away to a demon. He provides her with what is by the standards of her world a good education so she can kill the demon he's marrying her off to. The plan will mean her death as well, explaining her bitterness and anger. She enters a powerful male's home as his wife. Said powerful male is amusing and attractive but resigned to a fate he brought upon himself, one we're not aware of for a while. These two damaged, I can't say unromantic because I'm sure we're supposed to think they are, people recognize something in each other.

In Jane Eyre, there's a madwoman in the attic. In Cruel Beauty, there's a little something in one of the house's many rooms.   

Jane and Mr. Rochester's story in Jane Eyre is framed with a beginning piece about Jane's rough youth with her family and boarding school and an ending bit about her suffering after she leaves Rochester. Nyx and Ignifex's story in Cruel Beauty is framed with a beginning piece about Nyx's rough youth with her family and an ending bit about her suffering after she and Ignifex are separated. Some have argued that Mr. Rochester's blindness is a punishment for what he planned for himself and Jane, a punishment that was alleviated when Jane returned to him. A clever high school student could argue that Ignifex was punished for all he had done, a punishment that was alleviated when Jane returned to him.
 
There you've got it, folks, the beginning of a Cruel Beauty/Jane Eyre English paper.

Wait! There's more! It's kind of a stretch, but if enterprising students wanted to, they could claim there's a bit of a torn-between-two-lovers thing going on in Jane Eyre what with Jane being proposed to by both Mr. Rochester and that creepy minister named St. John. The author of Cruel Beauty does something interesting with the torn-between-two-lovers cliche.

Okay, lads and lasses. You're welcome to this material, but put it into your own words.

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6. Steampunk queen: an interview with Gail Carriger

gail brookline parasol Steampunk queen: an interview with Gail Carriger

Tea time! Photo: Elissa Gershowitz

Gail Carriger introduced readers to her alternate Victorian London — chock-full of steampunk technology and supernatural characters — in 2009 with Soulless, the first volume of her five-book adult series The Parasol Protectorate. The Finishing School series, a YA prequel series set in the same world, soon followed, beginning with Curtsies & Conspiracies. Espionage lessons, a dirigible boarding school, a girl inventor, vampires and werewolves, witty banter: what more could a steampunk fantasy fan ask for? Gail is currently working on another companion YA series, The Custard Protocol, which will kick off with Prudence in spring 2015.

brooklineinvite Steampunk queen: an interview with Gail Carriger

You’re invited… Photo: Elissa Gershowitz

My beloved local Brookline Public Library (hi Robin!) hosted Gail on November 10th for a lovely evening tea party — cucumber sandwiches and all! — and Q&A event to celebrate the release of Waistcoats & Weaponry, the third book in the Finishing School series. I spoke with her over tea just before the event. In addition to being a prolific and (ahem) fantastic author, Gail is also an archaeologist by training, Elissa’s college roomie (Oberlin represent!), and a very stylish lady — she told me she had a different Waistcoats & Weaponry–cover coordinated ensemble for each stop on the book tour.

The Parasol Protectorate books are adult books and The Finishing School series is YA — although there’s been a lot of crossover, with the YA books being read by adults and the adult books being read by teens. Have you found that there are things you can do in adult books that you can’t do in YA, or vice versa?

For me, YA has to be — and this is what I like about it — it has to be very clean and sharp. As a writer, it requires me to do a lot more editing because it needs to be very sparse. You don’t sacrifice details, but you sacrifice a certain amount of waffling. In adult books you’re allowed to put in extra little bits and distract the readers with pretty description for a while. In young adult, you just can’t do that. You have to be very structured and paced. Pacing is always really important to me, but I think in YA it’s even more important. That’s one of the biggest differences. And I allow myself to be a little more racy when I’m writing the adult stuff.

carriger waistcoats and weaponry Steampunk queen: an interview with Gail CarrigerYour Finishing School protagonist Sophoronia Temminnick has quite the name. Do you have other favorite Victorian-era names that you’ve come across in your research (or that you’ve come up with yourself)?

I tend to use them if I come across them. I love the name “Euphrenia”; I don’t know if I’ve leaked it into the books yet, but it’s one of my favorite ultra-Victorian names. I really like first names that are traditionally Victorian but are not used anymore. That’s one of the reasons I chose “Sophronia.” It’s still a pretty name, and sort of like “Sophia,” but just old-fashioned enough for you to know immediately, the minute that you read her name, that she’s not of our time. “Dimity” was another actual name from the time period. Alexia [from the Parasol Protectorate books] only got named “Alexia” because she was one of those characters that announced herself as being named that. Sometimes characters just enter your head and they’re like, “This is my name!” “Soap” is one of those as well. “Pillover” is another one — it’s not a real name; I just made that one up completely. But “Sophronia” and “Dimity” I picked.

Is there a mythological creature that you’ve been wanting to introduce into this world that you haven’t gotten to yet?

I’m pretty strict with myself with world-building. I’m sticking to motifs of vampires, shape-shifters, and ghosts, probably because almost every ancient culture has some version of them, like the kitsune in Japan. But I excavated in Peru for a while and there is a legend in the Peruvian highlands of a creature called a pishtaco (which is fantastically ridiculous-sounding, first of all). It’s essentially a fat-sucking vampire rather than a blood-sucking vampire — which is comedy gold. I’m dying to get [Custard Protocol protagonist] Prudence to the New World at some point so that she can meet one of these creatures and I can write all about them.

gail standing brookline Steampunk queen: an interview with Gail Carriger

Ensemble #1 at the Brookline Public Library. Photo: Elissa Gershowitz

Are we going to see more mechanimals like Bumbersnoot in the Finishing School books? (Or do you say “mech-animals”?)

I say “mechanimals,” like “mechanicals” but with an “animal” at the end. You will see more of them, but you’re not going to see a named little friend like Bumbersnoot. There’s quite a few in the last book but that’s all I’m going to say.

If you were going to have a mechanimal pet yourself, what kind of animal would you pick?

Probably something like a hedgehog. I would like a round, roly-poly, friendly sort of critter. I have a very demanding cat who’s svelte and overdramatic, so I think I’d like a calm, rodentia-style, chubby little creature. Something in the porcupine, hedgehog arena. The cat would probably be very upset with it.

What would your dream teatime guest list and menu look like?

Oh, goodness. Do I get to pick fantastic characters? Or historical people?

Sure. Living, dead, fictional — anyone you want.

There’s part of me that has to be true to my archaeological roots and pick Nefertiti, Hatshepsut, Boadicea… I’m attracted to super-powerful female historical figures, the queens and mistresses, so I’d probably concoct a party that was all these fantastic women from history. The problem, of course, would be interpretation, but it’s my fantasy so everyone would speak English. I’m an adventurous eater, and I’d like to cater to the guests, so I’d have foods from all of the different places and times they came from. One of my favorite things is cooking ancient food, sourcing the ingredients and re-creating it myself. I think if you can taste the flavor of the past, you can get a better impression of it. I’d try to do that so everybody got to try everybody else’s dishes.

What’s your specialty, your pet era as an archaeologist?

I’m not an area specialist; I’m a materials specialist. My focus was on ceramics. To this day I have a propensity to pick up a piece of pottery and flip it over to look at the back side — which can be terribly embarrassing if I’ve forgotten that there’s food on the front side — to look for the maker’s mark.

gail cambridge Steampunk queen: an interview with Gail Carriger

Ensemble #2 at Cambridge’s Pandemonium Books and Games store. Photo: Elissa Gershowitz

Are there other historical eras that you’d like to write about?

The series I’m writing now [The Custard Protocol] is set in the 1890s, which is basically the dawn of female emancipation. Mostly because of trousers — women gained a great deal of autonomy due to education and to the bicycle. The two combined started the New Woman movement, these educated young ladies with self-motivation and autonomy. I’m excited to move closer to the turn of the twentieth century and to have a bit more realism behind my super-strong female characters, because they’re not quite realistic to their time. There’s certainly other time periods I’d love to write in. I’d love to set an ancient story in some of the places I’ve visited.

What would be the most useful gadget for a Finishing School student to have on her person in the case of an espionage emergency? (This is a very difficultly worded question!)

It sounds like something I’ve written! The voice-acting talent [for my audiobooks] is always calling and complaining because I love tongue-twisters. I don’t even realize I’ve written them until somebody’s like, “Why did you write that?!” “I didn’t think about you guys reading it out loud.”

“Handiest gadget?” is the short version!

I love Sophronia’s fan, but I think it’s really handy for her. She becomes comfortable with it and adapts to it, but it’s not necessarily something that would be useful for everybody. In the final book, the chatelaine really comes to the fore. The girls keep going to balls, and they keep having to have chatelaines on them. A chatelaine is like the base for a Swiss Army Knife; it hangs off your belt and there’s a bunch of little chains and clips so you can hang multiple little things off it. Customarily you’d have a bit of perfume and a dance card, maybe keys or a little sewing kit. But of course Geraldine’s girls have a whole different set of things dangling! I love the idea that you could just attach something that has everything useful hanging off of it. Why can’t we still do that?

More fabulous photos at the Brookline Public Library Teen Room Tumblr.

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7. The Paper Cowboy

Levine, Kristin. 2014. The Paper Cowboy. New York: Putnam.

In the seemingly idyllic, 1950s, town of Downers Grove, Illinois, handsome and popular 12-year-old Tommy Roberts appears to be a typical kid.  He lives with his parents, older sister Mary Lou, younger sisters Pinky and Susie, and a devoted family dog. He and his older sister attend Catholic school, his father works for Western Electric, and his mother stays at home with the younger girls.

Amidst the backdrop of the Red Scare and McCarthyism, Tommy's discovery of a Communist newspaper in the town's paper drive truck, and a horrific burn accident to Mary Lou, begin a chain of events that uncovers secrets, truths, and lies in his small town populated with many Eastern European immigrants.

Perhaps the biggest lie is Tommy's own life.  Though he never gets caught, Tommy is a bully, picking on kids at school, especially Little Skinny. When he plants the Communist newspaper in a store owned by Little Skinny's immigrant father, he's gone too far - and he knows it.  Now it's time to act like his cowboy hero, The Lone Ranger, and make everything right, but where can he turn for help?  His mother is "moody" and beats him relentlessly while his father turns a blind eye. His older sister will be hospitalized for months. He has his chores and schoolwork to do, and Mary Lou's paper route, and if Mom's in a mood, he's caretaker for Pinky and Susie as well.

It's hard to understand a bully, even harder to like one, but readers will come to understand Tommy and root for redemption for him and his family.  He will find help where he least expects it.

     I couldn't tell Mrs. Glazov about the dinner party. Or planting the paper.  But maybe I could tell her about taking the candy.  Maybe that would help.  "There's this boy at school, I said slowly, "Little Skinny."
.....
     "I didn't like him.  I don't like him.  Sometimes, Eddie and I and the choirboys, we tease him."
     "Ahh," she said again.  "He laugh too?"
     I shook my head.  I knew what Mary Lou would say.  Shame on you, Tommy! Picking on that poor boy.  And now she would have scars just like him.  How would I feel if someone picked on her?
     "What did you do?" Mrs. Glazov asked, her voice soft, like a priest at confession.  It surprised me. I'd never heard her sound so gentle.
     "I took some candy from him," I admitted.
     "You stole it."
     I shrugged.
     "Ahh."
     "It's not my fault! If Mary Lou had been there, I never would have done it!"
     Mrs. Glazov laughed.  "You don't need sister.  You need conscience."
     I had the horrible feeling that she was right.  I wasn't a cowboy at all. I was an outlaw.
Author Kristin Levine gives credit to her father and many 1950s residents of Downers Grove who shared their personal stories with her for The Paper Cowboy. Armed with their honesty and openness, she has crafted an intensely personal story that accurately reflects the mores of the 1950s.  We seldom have the opportunity (or the desire) to know everything that goes on behind the doors of our neighbors' houses.  Levine opens the doors of Downers Grove to reveal alcoholism, mental illness, abuse, disease, sorrow, and loneliness. It is this stark realism that makes the conclusion so satisfying.  This is not a breezy read with a tidy and miraculous wrap-up.  It is instead, a tribute to community, to ordinary people faced with extraordinary problems, to the human ability to survive and overcome and change.

Give this book to your good readers - the ones who want a book to stay with them a while after they've finished it.


Kristin Levine is also the author of The Lions of Little Rock (2012, Putnam) which I reviewed here.

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8. A Letter to FAMOUS IN LOVE by Rebecca Serle

by Becca FAMOUS IN LOVEby Rebecca SerleAge Range: 12 and up Grade Level: 7 and upHardcover: 336 pagesPublisher: Poppy (October 21, 2014)Goodreads | Amazon When Paige Townsen gets plucked from high school obscurity to star in the movie adaptation of a blockbuster book series, her life changes practically overnight. Within a month, Paige has traded the quiet streets of her hometown for a

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9. Audio book reviews - recent fantasy favorites

*
I'm back from vacation and have some catching up to do!  If you're a frequent reader, you'll know that I review books for AudioFile Magazine.  Once submitted, I cannot reprint my reviews here, but I can offer a quick rundown, and link to the reviews as they appeared for AudioFile.


I am smitten with the unflappable Jennifer Strange, protagonist of Jasper Fforde's Chronicles of Kazam series. I recently reviewed the second book in the series, The Song of the Quarkbeast. A quirky, funny, and smartly-written fantasy series.  Book 3, The Eye of Zoltar just published last month, so get reading!  Read my review of The Song of the Quarkbeast here.  Suggested for ages 10-14. (I think older readers may enjoy it as well.)

I love Cornelia Funke's dark fantasy titles.  The Inkheart trilogy is a favorite series, and I thoroughly enjoyed Reckless, the first in the Mirrorworld series. I was thrilled when offered an opportunity to review her new early chapter book fantasy, Emma and the Blue Genie, especially when I discovered that she is the narrator.  My review of Emma and the Blue Genie is here.  Suggested for ages 7-10.
 (I only reviewed the audio copy, but the print copy is lovely - small and special and delightfully illustrated)




* Headphone image courtesy of Openclipart.org.

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10. World's End - Eve Ainsworth





When I was thirteen, something quite amazing happened.

Prior to this, I had been scribbling ideas at home. I had even sent a children's story - Muddles the Mouse - to Penguin, typed on a second hand rusty typewriter, to which I'd received a glowing letter and several paperback books. But my inspiration was drying up. I was young and no longer felt inspired by either books or my writing.

But then I found a bookshop - World's End. This was an age when I was first allowed to trek to town by myself or with friends and it was during this time that we discovered the shop, tucked away in the back streets. It was an unassuming building, hardly the most exciting thing to see - but when we wandered in, we found the thrill of books overpowering.

To be honest, it was pretty intimidating. The back of shop was full of comics and graphic novels. Teenage boys filled the aisles, leafing through the boxes and glaring at us skinny, nervous girls as we slipped in.

I remember rows of new shiny books, stacks of crime journals which pricked my curiosity. And then - on a bottom shelf, in the far corner - was a shelf marked TEEN.

We crouched down and pulled out some battered second-hand gems - the majority of them American. My eyes darted across the text. Christopher Pike, Lois Duncan, Lois Lowry.

My first purchase was Christopher Pike -  Gimme a Kiss. This book kept me up at night. It was pacy, thrilling, daring.  I never looked back.

Every week I would be in that shop, ignoring the boys at the back - just leafing through my new inspiration. Some days I could afford to buy, others I would just plan my next purchase. I particularly grew to love Pan Horizon books and gained an impressive collection.
The owners got used to seeing me, as I took away another book encased in a crisp paper bag. Inside my head was buzzing with ideas. I knew now that I wanted to write just like these authors.

It was a sad day when the shop finally closed in the late 90's, but of course by then the teen market was expanding rapidly. Things were changing. But I missed my backstreet shop, the smell of old books, the rough carpet against my legs as I sat reading, the gentle bell as the door was opened.

And I'll never forget it.

Perhaps even stranger - I ended up marrying one of those intimating teens that lurked at the back - so at least we can reminisce together.





 

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11. A Letter to CAPTIVE by Aimee Carter

Review by Becca  CAPTIVEby Aimee Carter Series: The Blackcoat Rebellion (Book 2)Hardcover: 304 pagesPublisher: Harlequin HQN (November 25, 2014)Language: EnglishGoodreads | Amazon The truth can set her free For the past two months, Kitty Doe's life has been a lie. Forced to impersonate Lila Hart, the Prime Minister's niece, in a hostile meritocracy on the verge of revolution, Kitty sees

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12. The Beginnning of Everything by Robyn Schneider {Review}

Review by Kit THE BEGINNING OF EVERYTHING By Robyn Schneider Paperback: 352 pagesPublisher: Katherine Tegen Books Goodreads | Amazon Golden boy Ezra Faulkner believes everyone has a tragedy waiting for them—a single encounter after which everything that really matters will happen. His particular tragedy waited until he was primed to lose it all: in one spectacular night, a reckless driver

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13. THE BOOK OF IVY {Book & Audiobook Review}

Review by Andye THE BOOK OF IVYThe Book of Ivy #1by Amy EngelAge Range: 12 - 18 yearsGrade Level: 7 - 12 Audiobook Publisher: Random House AudioPublisher: Entangled: Teen (November 11, 2014) Goodreads | Amazon | Audiobook What would you kill for? After a brutal nuclear war, the United States was left decimated. A small group of survivors eventually banded together, but only after more

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14. A Mystery With Romance

I definitely liked All The Truth That's In Me by Julie Berry, which I'm going to describe as a literary mystery. (Though, wait, it's also a romance.) I liked it enough that I tried to find time during the day to sneak in some reading. I liked it even though there were some odd little quirks that would normally bother me.

  • It took me a few pages to grasp the book's episodic nature, even though the episodes, often quite short, were clearly defined by Roman numerals. The episodes were usually in the main character, Judith's, present, when she is living in a socially rigid village where she has returned after having been kidnapped around the same time that one of her friends was murdered. But sometimes the episodes were in her past when she was kept captive by a dangerous man who released her after maiming her so she couldn't speak.
  • I was a little put off by the lack of definition as far as the setting was concerned. It seemed to be a Puritan world to me, but the text never makes that clear and an attack from the homeland is not consistent with the Puritan era, at least to my knowledge.
  • On a superficial level, Judith seems to be like Belle in the Twilight series. Men are mysteriously attracted to her. However, though the author doesn't clearly state it, I was able to see the logic of what was happening. In one case, Judith was not actually an object of desire, she was merely available. In another she is being pursued by someone hoping to take advantage of her. Only with the third man is there a real relationship. I can believe one.
Among the many things I liked about this book:
  • It doesn't scream "I'm a mystery!" Though the book is supposed to have received a lot of attention last year when it was published, I didn't know anything about it. The fact that this is a mystery was sort of slowly revealed as I was reading it.
  • There's a big battle scene early in the book. It was what would have been THE big climactic scene for many writers, but it came early. I definitely was wondering what was going to follow that.
  • A secondary young woman character could have been a stereotypical twenty-first century teen bitch placed in a Puritan village. But she's not.
  • Judith's slow understanding of what happened to friend Lottie, as well as of things she saw while a captive, and her slow reveal of what she knows, make sense.
I think an argument could be made that some scenes border on melodrama, what with one character throwing herself upon her injured beloved, another throwing himself off a cliff, and still another stripping naked to ford a water in river. Evidently I like a little melodrama.

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15. Girls in Towers

lengle camilla Girls in TowersMadeline L’Engle’s novel Camilla (titled Camilla Dickinson when first published in 1951 and recently reissued) features a bright and passionate fifteen-year-old who presents us with the essential question of the YA genre — how will this girl survive the emotional chaos of adolescence? In fairy tales, this same question is more logistical — how will the princess escape supervision long enough to exit the tower, descend into the forest, and head for the village?

Camilla is narrated by just such a princess, one who lives with her parents in a New York City penthouse. The novel was published long before there was a young adult genre as we know it today, but it contains all the elements of the classic YAs of the late twentieth century — a journey out of childhood, a hypersensitive girl, a pace providing ample time for deep reflection. The reader participates in a clean, well-documented metamorphosis, wisely told by a girl who embodies the most cherished aspects of twentieth-century female adolescence — at least in literature: hope, compassion, and a fearless, unflinching honesty.

These qualities were true of the protagonists in many of the forbears of the genre — Frankie in Carson McCuller’s Member of the Wedding, Molly in Jean Stafford’s The Mountain Lion, Cecil in Rumer Godden’s Greengage Summer — but there is a profound difference between these early coming-of-age novels and Camilla, and I believe that it stems from L’Engle’s technique of tracking Camilla day-by-day, hour-by-hour, as she struggles to understand what is happening to her. Her journey is both epic and microscopic. The novel covers just a few weeks in Camilla’s interior life and is intensely focused on the minutiae of her days — a concentrated, claustrophobic time of adolescent upheaval. This original technique prefigured the YA genre that would begin to flourish in the next decade.

Another element that connects Camilla to the modern YA genre is L’Engle’s obvious love for her protagonist. Camilla narrates as someone relaying the events in her life to a listener with deep affection for her. This makes her exquisitely reliable. She is both admittedly vulnerable and unapologetically passionate, sometimes on the very same page. She is also a girl scientist! Her fascination with the heavens creates a wonderful juxtaposition — the discipline of astronomy; the importance of identifying and naming things as a way of feeling part of the universe — coupled with her more spiritual quest for a guiding star. With both perspectives in full operation, she searches for the deeper meaning of her life. She wants to be around people who are more fully alive than her parents — boys her own age who talk passionately about war and death and what it means to have a soul. She purposefully connects herself to new events and situations. She wants to feel everything, even — what is surely coming soon — the heartbreak and disappointment of first love. She is fearless about being hurt. She wears her heart on her sleeve. She is fully alive in her emotions.

*    *    *

Such a bittersweet read! As I reread the book, Camilla’s voice took me back to some of my own girl narrators, young sages who decades ago responded to their parents’ ineptitude with more sadness than anger, more compassion than contempt. And much like Camilla, these fictional girls still believed that a proper romance could soften the cruelties of adolescence; they trusted that the right boy would come along if they were patient and careful. They were hopeful. Camilla is open to the possibility of becoming a finer, more self-aware person, now that she is no longer a child. She believes in her inner beauty. She values her own transcendent girl-ness, trusting its power. I remember that perspective. I believed in it and rode it like a wave after the publication of my first YA novel, The Bigger Book of Lydia (1983). It fueled my writer’s voice for two decades.

But the world of teenagers has changed. Thirty years after the publication of The Bigger Book of Lydia, the girls have come out of their towers. They may still be the smartest and the most forthright people in the village, but they are not happy. They often hide their disappointment and anger. If they are unusually sensitive, or especially perceptive, if they feel too keenly the messages of the culture, they will find relief in all manner of self-abuse, including cutting and starving themselves. These girls are skeptical of romance as an antidote, or a way to become more whole. They are wary, as they should be. They are confused, as they must be. They will not be overprotected or restricted. But the forest is a dangerous place, and the village beyond is not much better, not if a girl is complicated, opinionated, unconventional. Not if she has a chip on her shoulder. Not if she has a few tattoos or visible piercings. Not if she is loud. Not if her hair is blue.

*    *    *

In Camilla, the author describes the blossoming of Camilla’s sexuality, her intense longing for something deeper than friendship, and her curiosity about both romantic love and physical attachment. In this state, she falls in love with Frank, the brother of her best friend, a complicated boy, deeply philosophical and equally searching—just the sort of boy a girl like Camilla would be drawn to. Her feelings are returned, and the resulting relationship is very intense and sensual without ever becoming sexual. Not that Camilla doesn’t know about sex or understand its power; her own family has been torn apart by an affair her mother has had with a younger man. Despite this, Camilla savors the preliminaries of a real romance. She loves Frank’s voice, his seriousness; she is thrilled to hold hands with him. Their conversation is electric, full of mystery. Why did he say that? What did he mean? When will I see him again? What does he think of me? L’Engle captures the way time stands still between two young people who are kindred spirits, equally attracted to each other.

Camilla’s attraction to Frank leads to a more radical movement away from her parents, and this movement echoes the fairy tale motif — the girl who must leave a place of safety and isolation (tower, cellar, locked room), sometimes boldly, sometimes in stealth, in order to become a woman. This element in Camilla is not surprising given L’Engle’s deep appreciation for fairy tales and her extended use of their patterns in her eventual books for children, but it is especially strong and apropos in this novel of the 1950s. The reader can quietly cheer for Camilla in escape mode, wearing her red beret (a symbol of sexual adventure) and leaving her ineffective parents behind.

There is no sense, no underlying message, that the author feels that sex between these two young people would be morally wrong. Rather, like many writers of the 1940s and 1950s, L’Engle is more interested in the challenges to identity that leaving a sheltered state bring. The novel moves in and out of the realm of myth and fairy tale, where explicit sex is unnecessary. In fact, Frank disappears without ever having kissed Camilla. Yet they have shared a remarkably powerful connection—Camilla as the star gazer; Frank as her brooding, wandering prince.

*    *    *

I remember a long-ago conversation with my sister while we were still young women, and before I had written a novel of adolescence. We swore that we would not forget, if and when we had our own daughters, the power of first love. And I did not so much forget it as I was uneasy writing about it — the mother in me perhaps. I did not want to encourage my readers to enter that place of obsession and treachery and, yes, sometimes ecstasy, without having a clear way out. And I did not know yet, as a writer and an adult woman, how to faithfully re-create the misery and confusion of my own early sexual experiences. For these reasons, I was very well-suited for the phase of young adult literature that I came up in, an era of sensitive and articulate girl narrators who wanted romantic connection without the complications of having sexual intercourse. In love with love, yes. Sexually curious, perhaps. But sexually active, never.

Such a sensible approach! In my novels of yore, I could comfortably celebrate the innocence of these trysts. I could create girls, and also boys, who were longing for a partner, something beyond friendship, certainly, but also with the understanding that they were not ready for sex and did not need it.

Imagine. Young women who are strong in their innocence and unwaveringly hopeful about what is coming — their unfolding sexual lives.

In the final page of Camilla, our star gazer is back in her New York bedroom, studying Betelgeuse, a star in the constellation of Orion. Frank is gone, and she has turned to astronomy in her grief. She has learned many things. She has endured many disappointments. She is back in the tower, but no longer a child. She is looking up at the stars, intact and unharmed. It is a good place for her. She will stay there a little while longer, preparing for whatever comes next without regret or shame. Then she will resume the journey out.

I wish her well. I miss her.

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16. ATLANTIA by Ally Condie {Review}

Review by Elisa ATLANTIAby Ally CondieAge Range: 12 and up Grade Level: 7 and upHardcover: 320 pagesPublisher: Dutton Juvenile (October 28, 2014) Goodreads | Amazon Can you hear Atlantia breathing? For as long as she can remember, Rio has dreamed of the sand and sky Above—of life beyond her underwater city of Atlantia. But in a single moment, all Rio’s hopes for the future are shattered

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17. MORTAL HEART (His Fair Assassin #3) by Robin LaFevers

Review by Andye MORTAL HEART His Fair Assassin #3 by Robin LaFevers Hardcover: 464 pages Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (November 4, 2014) Goodreads | Amazon In the powerful conclusion to Robin LaFever's New York Times bestselling His Fair Assassins trilogy, Annith has watched her gifted sisters at the convent come and go, carrying out their dark dealings in the name of St. Mortain,

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18. The inspiration for my new novel - David Thorpe

Stormteller David Thorpe
My first novel in several years is out this week – Like Hybrids it's still YA, it's still set in the future, but it's very different in subject matter. I thought it might be interesting to talk about why I wanted to write it.

I lived in mid-Wales, where Stormteller is set, for nearly 20 years. After separating from my first wife I eventually landed up in Taliesin, partly because I was attracted to a place named after Wales' legendary bard.

I know the landscape almost as well as I know my back garden now, having walked over much of it. I always felt when I moved to this edge of the British Isles from London that here, unlike most places, the skin of the present is thin: you can feel the vibrations from the past still reverberating down the centuries like thunder beneath your feet.

Just inland from Taliesin village is a collapsed dolmen that is given the name 'Taliesin's grave' – though it is much older than that.



Between my house at that time and the sea, lies Borth bog: you may remember the images in the media last winter when flames were leaping across it from burning peat despite the snow: spooky.


And then Borth itself: a long sliver of a town that shouldn't be there, streamed onto a spur of land against the glint of the sea, on a section of coast that is the most vulnerable in the whole of Wales to storm surges. Again, it was in the media last winter when it was attacked by giant waves.


The spur continues to Ynys Las, a nature reserve of sand dunes opposite the Dyfi estuary from Aberdyfi – a colony of English retirees and yachting people largely immune to the influence of the past.

Above it, however, by the Bearded Lake, is allegedly a footprint left by King Arthur when he passed this way, and north of there the mountain Cader Idris, Welsh for Seat of Arthur.

But the real stories that come from this area are older than Arthur's: the birth of Taliesin and Cantr'er Gwaelod, which is the tale of how the land that now lies beneath Cardigan Bay was drowned by the sea.

It's these, and the beautiful, wild and dramatic landscape, that sparked my imagination to write this novel.

Let me tell you the beginning of the first story: a mother had two children – a beautiful girl and a hideous boy with a hunched back. The girl wasn't a problem, she's not even part of the story, probably got married off to a Prince.

But the boy... the mother felt sorry for him. Perhaps the gift of wit and wisdom might make him popular so she could get him off her hands. So she laboured a year and a day to make a magic potion for him, but on the last day she left the servant boy, Gwion, in charge while she popped out. "Just stir: don't taste," she told him.

You can probably guess what happened next. The long and the short of it is that Gwion got to sample the potion and he received all the gifts intended for the son. He was the one who became Taliesin.

Nowadays, Taliesin is revered in Wales and beyond for his poetic and shamanic genius. But his talents should have belonged to someone else – the son, whose name is Afagddu. No one remembers him now, but Taliesin has a village and even an arts centre named after him.

So I thought: how would Afagddu feel? What would he want?

And this is a starting point for Stormteller.

As a rebirthed baby, Gwion floated down the Dyfi river to Ynyslas where he was found by a local prince, who named him Taliesin. That leads into the second story....

...with a tragic ending – the flooding of the land – that it seemed to me has echoes of the threat that Borth and the whole coast of Britain faces now and in the future: rising sea levels, more storms and extreme weather caused by climate change.

We all feel threatened by climate change. We feel powerless to do anything about it. So I wanted the novel partly to be about giving some degree of optimism. It's trying to look at the question of rewriting the endings of stories: ours – about climate change – and these two old legends.

It's easy to give into a sense of fatalism. I believe that we can all rewrite our stories, we at least have the power to do that. And this is true for the teenagers Tomos and Eira in the novel. But, as in life, there are always sacrifices to be made...

You can find out more about the background to the novel here.

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19. Was "Cress" Worth Paying A Fine For?

It most definitely was.

Cress is the third in The Lunar Chronicles, which began with Cinder, a book I definitely enjoyed. Scarlet I wasn't quite so taken with. I'm back on board with Cress, though.

What Cress does really well is get readers into the story without leaving them mystified because this is part three of a serial and who remembers what happened in part two? Book One was a clear and clever Cyber Cinderella story. Book Two was an intriguing take on Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf, but connecting it to Cinder's story a little awkwardly. The awkwardness is gone in Book Three.

Cress is a techie Rapunzel figure, trapped on a satellite for years doing the evil queens bidding. She is also an inexperienced romantic who believes the space cowboy she ends up leaving the satellite with is the hero of her dreams. It makes sense that she gets pulled into Cinder's scooby gang, which is plotting to save a Prince Charming from having to marry an evil Moon Queen who is planning to...

That's enough.

There's some romance going on in these books. It's pretty clear to me that all kinds of couples are going to come out of these Chronicles. I don't usually care for romance. But there are clever things going on with these people. Cress, for instance, is such an over-the-top sucker for romance and the object of her affections is so bad-boy questionable that there is almost a little parody going on there.

This is a serial, and I do wish I'd been able to read them in a binge instead of over a few years. That's pretty much my only complaint at this point.

Cress is a Cybils nominee in the YA Speculative Fiction category.


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20. A Less Than Perfect Peace by Jacqueline Levering Sullivan

It's January 1950 and for most people, WWII has been over for five years.  But not in the Howard household in Tacoma, Washington.  It was only fours years ago that Annie Leigh's father, who had been MIA, returned from the war, and spent time in a convalescent hospital learning to adjust to his blindness.  Now, he's home, but is starting to withdraw more and more, refusing any more help with his blindness, unlike Uncle Billy, who had also come home from the war with PTSD, and had gotten help for it.  Now, the Howard Brothers are planing on starting a carpentry business together - one that won't require Annie's father to leave home.

On top of that, her mother, who seems to be extremely most self-absorbed and domineering, has started her own beauty salon, a long time dream finally realized, but a bone of contention between her and her husband.  The family needs the money the salon will bring in, but it takes up a lot of her time, or maybe, Annie speculates, what takes up her mother's time is really the florist, Mr. Larry Capaldi, whose shop is downstairs from the salon and who frequently picks Mrs. Howard up and drops her off.

Into all this come Jon and Elizabeth VanderVelde, refugee twins from Holland who have come to  Tacoma to live with their Aunt Dee and Uncle Hendrick.  They live on the estate of a wealthy family,  Aunt Dee is the cook and housekeeper and Uncle Henrick is their driver.  Jon and Elizabeth immediately become friends with Annie Leigh, but they are also carrying their own emotional baggage, especially Jon.   The twins spent the war living under Nazi occupation, and witnessed the terrible killing of their parents, to which Jon responded in ways that left him with his own nightmares and PTSD.

Luckily for Annie, her beloved Grandma Howard from Walla Walla comes for an extended stay and can offer Annie some support, advice and stability when needed.  Meanwhile, Annie gets to know Jon better, and the two find they are attracted to each other, despite his black moods.  But after he  surprises her by telling her the truth about what happened on his family's farm towards the end of the war. Annie begins to question her feelings for Jon.   But, Annie's biggest surprise come when her mother announces that she is pregnant, and Annie can't help but wonder who the real father is.

Yes, this coming of age story is packed with problems that Annie fears might collapse her world.  But in the process of seeking solutions, Annie learns to appreciate what those who were directly involved in the war experienced.  And in her attempt to find solutions and make everyone's world better again, she must learn to sometimes step back and let things unfold without her help.

A Less Than Perfect Peace has some nice elements to it and creates a very realistic sense of place and time, giving the reader an interesting window into the beginning of the Cold War, which is also a good metaphor for what was going on in the Howard family at the time.  At times the story did drag, and it seemed like there were just too many different story threads, but it all works out in the end and it does mimic how real life happens.

When my mother suddenly lost the sight in one of her eyes, I saw how truly panicked she was about it, and the idea of losing sight in both eyes was a really scary thought for her.  I could understand Mr. Howard's desire to stay in the safe confines of his home, where he knew his way around, and to be so resistant to admitting to himself that he is blind and therefore handicapped, even when there were programs and guide dogs to help him maneuver the world again.  His character shows what a paralyzing emotion fear can sometimes be.

I should mention that this is a sequel to Annie's War, which I haven't read yet, but enough background information is given by narrator Annie Leigh in A Less Than Perfect Peace so that it is a nice stand alone novel and a novel that will certainly resonate with many young readers especially those who are or have family members stuggling with PTSD.

This book is recommended for readers age 11+
This book was borrowed from a friend

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21. THESE BROKEN STARS {Review}

Review by Elisa  THESE BROKEN STARSAge Range: 12 - 18 yearsGrade Level: 7 - 12Series: Starbound (Book 1)Hardcover: 384 pagesPublisher: Disney-Hyperion; 1ST edition (December 10, 2013)Goodreads | Amazon It's a night like any other on board the Icarus. Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and

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22. A Very Sad Letter to ENDGAME by Nils Johnson-Shelton & James Frey

Review by Becca ENDGAMEby Nils Johnson-Shelton and James Frey Series: Endgame (Book 1)Hardcover: 480 pagesPublisher: HarperCollins (October 7, 2014)Language: English Goodreads | Amazon Twelve ancient cultures were chosen millennia ago to represent humanity in Endgame, a global game that will decide the fate of humankind. Endgame has always been a possibility, but never a reality…until

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23. looking at second-person point-of-view

There are not many stories written in second-person point of view, at least not many that are well-known.  In books on writing, a handful of examples are given that are often repeated among the discussions, but from time to time a new use of the mode will be undertaken by a fresh, contemporary fiction writer.

A very good example of second-person writing (and an excellent work of fiction) is given in a recent short story, "The Rhett Butlers," by Katherine Heiny (The Atlantic, Oct. 2014).  Second-person writing is sometimes described as simply substituting 'you' for ' I ' in what would otherwise be first-person writing.  That's largely true, but just that exchange can have a major effect on how the reader responds to a story.  Moreover, there are many other nuances that also can be called into play with the second-person technique.  Let's just shorten the terminology to POV-2, and for first-person writing, POV-1, etc., for our following discussion.

Heiny's story is about a seventeen-year old girl student who becomes involved with her 40-yr. old history teacher.  It's a story that would probably most often be attempted in POV-1, but how reliable might the girl character be in revealing her motivations and emotional state when she herself might be expected to prevaricate about such things.  By using POV-2 we might be able to challenge her views, and allow her some sidestepping or irony in revealing her motivations. The POV-2 can also be useful in having the second-person narrator reveal some backstory or exposition that might seem unnatural or forced if left to the girl to furnish to the reader.  It will be useful to examine a few excerpts from the story to show the style and nuances that Heiny employs.  Here is one of the early paragraphs that will help set up the story as well as show the POV-2 style she so deftly uses:

YOU AND MR. EAGLETON are becoming regulars at the Starlite Motel.  The first time you stayed in the car while Mr. Eagleton checked in, but now you go in with him to see what name he uses when he signs the register.  He always chooses characters from your favorite novels: Mr. and Mrs. Gatsby, Mr. and Mrs. Caulfield, Mr. and Mrs. Finch, Mr. and Mrs. Twist.  This idea seems very romantic to you, even though you would never change your name, and certainly not to Eagleton.
The woman behind the counter seems to like Mr. and Mrs. Butler best.  "Ah, the Rhett Butlers," she says every time.  "Welcome back."
She is a large, motherly woman, who looks a lot like Mrs. Harrison, the womanwho drives the Children's Bookmobile.  She always has the TV on, and always on a channel showing Wheel of Fortune.  She's unbelievably good--you once saw her guess "Apocalypse Now" just from the letter C.
 This woman makes you feel a lot better.  Nothing bad can happen to you here. 

Notice how the narrator can fill in the reader on the prior frequency of visits, and show an equanimity of the girl, as well as her naivete, and other background things that would have been a lot more awkward in first-person exposition.  

Here is a slightly later paragraph that also illustrates the nuanced values of POV-2:


MARCY TELLS HER PARENTS that she's sleeping at your home.  This way she can stay out past her curfew or even all night.  She's going over to Jeff Lipencott's house; his parents are out of town.
 You agree.  Of course you do--think of all the times Marcy has covered for you.  You sit in the TV room, wearing sweats and your glasses and eating cold Pop-Tarts.  You wish only the very best for Marcy, but you feel forlorn picturing her at Jeff Lippencott's, maybe lying in his parent's bed, leading a real life.
Marcy knocks on the window a little after 11.  You open it and she steps over the window ledge, shaking little diamonds of cold rain from her hair, and says, "Oh my God, he's such an asshole!  He spent the whole time doing hand stands with his friends, and I didn't know anyone and wound up helping his little sister weave pot holders."
 This story should make you feel lots better.  It should make you happy to be you again.  But it doesn't.

The choice of POV-2 for this story seemed so right.  Check out the full story in The Atlantic.  You owe it to your career.  Another interesting story in POV-2, a novel actually, Chris Lynch's, "Freewill," a Printz Honor Award book.  Lynch has a long list of good YA titles, and is such a fine writer that it was inevitable he'd take up the challenge to write an intriguing POV-2 classic.  Read this one, too.

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24. STONE COLD TOUCH by Jennifer Armentrout {Review & Giveaway}

Review by Becca STONE COLD TOUCH The Dark Elements #3 by Jennifer L ArmentroutPaperback: 464 pagesPublisher: Harlequin Teen (October 21, 2014) Amazon Barnes and Noble Kobo iTunes Every touch has its price Layla Shaw is trying to pick up the pieces of her shattered life—no easy task for a seventeen-year-old who’s pretty sure things can’t get worse. Her impossibly gorgeous best friend

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25. RITES OF PASSAGE by Joy N. Hensley {Book & Audiobook Review}

Review by Andye RITES OF PASSAGE Audiobook Rites of Passage UNABRIDGED By Joy N. Hensley Narrated By Khristine Hvam Whispersync for Voice-ready Length: 10 hrs and 28 mins Release Date: 09-09-14 Goodreads | Audible | Amazon Sam McKenna has never turned down a dare. And she's not going to start with the last one her brother gave her before he died. So Sam joins the first-ever class of

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