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Well, I totally missed this kerfuffle!
From the Guardian:
It was all started by Richard Cooper (@RichardHCooper), a University of Kent graduate who was considering taking a creative writing course there. But he was troubled by a statement on their site.
"We love great literature," it said. "We are excited by writing that changes the reader, and ultimately – even if it is in a very small way – the world. We love writing that is full of ideas, but that is also playful, funny and affecting. You won't write mass-market thrillers or children's fiction on our programmes. You'll be encouraged to look deep inside yourself for your own truth and your own experiences, and also outside yourself at the contemporary world around you. Then you'll work out how to turn what you find into writing that has depth, risk and originality but is always compelling and readable."
*headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk*
Almost entirely Usual Suspects on this list: Winger, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, Fangirl, Two Boys Kissing, The 5th Wave, Just One Year, The Moon and More, Eleanor & Park, The Waking Dark, and Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock.
I've read The 5th Wave (love) and Fangirl (double-mega love), The Waking Dark (over-the-moon love) and The Moon and More (It's Sarah Dessen. Love. Obvs.).
But I just snagged Coldest Girl in Coldtown off of the library shelf, so now I feel slightly less losery.
What are you waiting for?
Click on over to reddit!
...have been announced.
The YA winner is Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell, and the YA SF/F winner is Allegiant, by Veronica Roth.
Click on through for the rest!
Titles I've read from Chronicle's Spring 2014 catalog:
Nobody's Secret, by Michaela MacColl:
It’s possible that it could have worked as short fiction, but there’s so little story here that 230 pages feels really, really long. It’s clear that the author has an appreciation for her subject both as a person and a poet, but the characters—including Emily, which is especially unfortunate—never make the shift from two-dimensional characters into three-dimensional people.
The Clockwork Scarab, by Colleen Gleason:
It’s fun, it’s smart, and despite the familiar components, it’s a solidly entertaining steampunk adventure. Most notably, it has a much stronger focus on the relationship between the girls than on any of the various romantic entanglements, and there’s a thought-provoking thread about feminism, and about cultural assumptions about gender roles: how “appropriate” conduct is defined by worldview.
Under Shifting Glass, by Nicky Singer:
Under Shifting Glass is about beginnings (birth, family, new realizations about old relationships) and endings (death, the end of friendship, the end of childhood); it’s about different kinds of families (blood, chosen, kindred spirits), about jealousy and about the realization that there is room in your heart for more than one person at a time. In another book, a convergence of so many storylines that drive the same themes home could easily feel contrived, but in this book, which celebrates connections of all sorts—Jess calls them ‘joinings’—it just...works.
Titles I want to read from the same catalog:
Always Emily, by Michaela MacColl: I wasn't a huge fan of Nobody's Secret, but I'm a sucker for all things Brontë. And really, I have to read it, because otherwise, my Wuthering Heights roundup would be INCOMPLETE.
The Falconer, by Elizabeth May: Revenge and romance in steampunk Scotland. It's the first in a trilogy (obvs, since standalone fantasies are an endangered species), but there are EVIL FAERIES. So, you know: worth a try!
Going Over, by Beth Kephart: Two crazy kids in love, separated by the Berlin Wall in 1983. Kephart's writing is so gorgeous in You Are My Only that I'll read anything by her.
In the picture book realm, I've got my eye on Cali & Chaud's I Didn't Do My Homework Because... and Reynolds & Tankard's Here Comes Destructosaurus purely because I like the artwork.
Oh, and also Pittau & Gervais' The Open Ocean, because I love nature books with lift-the-flaps and pop-ups.
The Dirt Diary, by Anna Staniszewski and The List, by Siobhan Vivian:
There must be more, but these are the two that immediately come to mind.
...I wrote about Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner’s These Broken Stars, which started out as 'Titanic in space' but rapidly transformed into a survival/journey across an alien planet:
Although he’s likable enough—his Jerk Moments are far fewer than Lilac’s, and are usually fueled by necessity—Tarver isn’t a hugely interesting character, as he’s one of those super strong, super sensitive, super mature, borderline all-knowing heroes who develops a lurrrve for the heroine, but keeps it under wraps Because He’s Beneath Her, etc., etc. As he’s already pretty much “perfect” at the outset of the story, he doesn’t have much growing to do, so there’s little-to-no character development on that front. Lilac, meanwhile, does quite a bit of changing.
Even though the cover doesn't make a whole lot of sense, I continue to think it's totally gorgeous.
Books on their list that I've read:
Being Henry David, by Cal Armistead:
Being Henry David is one of those frustrating stories in which the protagonist could save himself pages and pages of torment and confusion if he’d just, you know, ask someone for help. But Armistead makes Hank’s reasons for avoiding the authorities emotionally believable and logically plausible, so it’s not really an issue. It is, as evidenced by my one-sitting read, an extremely compelling book, and the Thoreau quotes are woven in quite nicely: I can easily imagine this book inspiring younger readers to go and look him up.
The Sin Eater's Confession, by Ilsa J. Bick: This one, I haven't written about. It's EXCELLENT, in a punch-you-in-the-face kind of way.
Rapture Practice, by Aaron Hartzler:
There’s plenty of humor—the official Kirkus review called it “hilarious,” though I found it more subdued than that—but I had a lump in my throat for almost the entire 400 pages. It’s written with such emotional honesty that it’s impossible not to empathize with Hartzler’s young self: regardless of whether he’s writing about his Big Questions about God and religion or getting caught in a lie about buying the Pretty Woman soundtrack.
Dark Triumph, by Robin LeFevers:
Because Sybella is so damaged, so emotionally scarred, it's hard to engage with her at first. For the first third or so of the book, everything she feels—or at least everything she admits to feeling—towards others is either dark and violent, or tinged with self-loathing and fear. She hates and fears her family; she distrusts her abbess; she fears that if Ismae knew her true self, that she would lose their friendship. Once she starts to embrace herself, to forgive herself, and to realize that she HASN'T DONE ANYTHING THAT REQUIRES FORGIVENESS, she becomes much easier to engage with, and her fierce joy in fighting, in righting wrongs, and in Beast himself is just... profound.
Like, I felt it in my head, my heart, my gut, my toes.
September Girls, by Bennett Madison: I haven't written about this one either. Here's my nutshell reaction: It's a book that takes a lot of work and requires a lot of thought on the part of the reader, and I mean both of those things in the best possible way. It took some heat for being supposedly "anti-feminist", but I didn't read it like that AT ALL: it struck me as EXTREMELY feminist, in that it explores different aspects and pressures and issues—from commentary on broad cultural trends to more personal one-on-one to even more personal internal stuff—of the Female Condition, as it were. It's about the boxes that we put other people in, and the boxes that other people put us in, and the boxes that we put OURSELVES in. Good stuff.
A Corner of White, by Jaclyn Moriarty: Yeesh, I haven't written about this one EITHER, and I loved it! Moriarty is so fantastic at creating multiple distinct voices within one story, and this book is no exception. Also, I loved the stuff with the colors.
Midwinterblood, by Marcus Sedgwick:
OH MY GOD, I LOVE THIS BOOK.
And I have no idea how to write about it.
Out of the Easy, by Ruta Sepeyts:
Oh, I loved this book. As it's got the same combination of fantastically-rendered historical atmosphere—the dialogue is TO DIE FOR—and mystery elements, I highly, HIGHLY recommend it to fans of Judy Blundell's What I Saw and How I Lied.
All Our Yesterdays, by Cristin Terrill:
Terrill does a great job of writing two versions of the same characters: Future Em and Past Marina, Finn's selves and, to a lesser degree, James' past and future selves are all clearly the same people with the same personalities, but they are vastly different in terms of maturity and perspective. Which is extremely cool. Some readers are BOUND to have difficulty with the contrast between Em and Marina—Marina's everyday does-he-like-me and will-this-food-make-me-fat woes could easily come off as self-absorbed and somewhat obnoxious when compared to the high stakes Save The World backdrop of the story—but in context of story and character, Marina's issues work: she hasn't been through everything Em has, she doesn't have that perspective, and she hasn't yet developed a Steely Core.
Palace of Spies, by Sarah Zettel:
Lines like, “There is nothing so much noticed or so long remembered as a girl’s gown, especially by those who are not her friends” are bound to draw comparisons to Jane Austen, but its romp-y nature puts it more in line with Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances. I have no doubt whatsoever that Heyer fans—especially those who prefer her more hijinks-heavy stories—will find it similarly witty and fun and just…HAPPY MAKING.
Erin Bow's Sorrow's Knot is on the list, too, and I'm PLANNING on reading it. But I've been avoiding because I still haven't quite recovered from Plain Kate. Anyway, be sure to click on through for the whole thing, because there are a whole bunch of NON-USUAL SUSPECT titles, which is SO PLEASANT!
From The Journal:
Jefferson County Schools has discontinued the use of a controversial book being read by about 120 students at Harpers Ferry Middle School, said Pat Blanc, an assistant superintendent who oversees curriculum and instruction.
As a result, students are no longer reading "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" by Native American author Sherman Alexie.
"We checked and it was not on the state-approved list of books, so it should have gone through the process for approval in the county. But that didn't happen," Blanc said.
This sounds a lot like the recent story about Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close in Iowa: book is challenged mid-way through an assignment, school realizes that the book hasn't gone through whatever administrative rigmarole it should have gone through, they pull the book, multiple classes have to stop reading a book halfway through and start the unit all over again with a different book.
I understand that it's important for the teachers to follow the guidelines for getting books cleared in the first place—that way, for one thing, there'd (hopefully) be a more clear path when challenges happen—but it seems like it would be far less disruptive to have allowed the challenger's son to switch assignments, have everyone else finish the Alexie, AND THEN send the book off to get cleared or whatever. It just seems like they chose the path that was the most fraught with confusion and the least conducive to learning.
But, who knows, maybe there are legal ramifications that I'm unaware of.
...their Notable Children’s Books of 2013 lists.
Here are the YA titles:
Boxers and Saints, by Gene Luen Yang
Eleanor & Park and Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell
The 5th Wave, by Rick Yancey
Picture Me Gone, by Meg Rosoff
The Rithmatist, by Brandon Sanderson
Rose Under Fire, by Elizabeth Wein
I've only read Fangirl and The 5th Wave. Loved 'em both, though I haven't written about them. WHOOPS!
Click on through for the middle grade and picture book titles.
Like Lizzie Skurnick Books, Strange Chemistry offers a subscription plan:
Get your e-mitts on every new Strange Chemistry ebook published between now and 12 months from now.
That's at least 22 ebooks for one, significantly discounted, up-front price!
And if you live outside of Europe, you won't be charged the sales tax (VAT) that we have to charge here, making the cost of your subscription approximately $109 (depending on the exchange rate, currently around £1 = $1.62).
If we publish more than the indicated number of books between the start and end of your subscription, you will get the additional ebooks free of charge.
Coincidentally, I read this one earlier this week, and my column about it will run at Kirkus next week. How's that for timing?
Anyway, click on over to USA Today for a sneak preview of the book!
Lizzie Skurnick Books is running a promotion:
If you subscribe to Lizzie Skurnick Books between now and December 15th, you’ll get all the books published so far for the price of one subscription. That’s 14 books for the price of 12, if you subscribe for one year, and 8 books for the price of 6 if you choose the six month subscription option. All subscriptions come with FREE SHIPPING. Among the authors LS Books will be publishing in the next year are Sydney Taylor, Norma Klein, Brenda Wilkinson, M.E. Kerr, Lika Perl, Berthe Amoss, and many more.
Time to leave a tab open in Josh's browser!
On second thought, maybe I should go for a LESS-SUBTLE HINT...
...have been announced.
The Children's Book Award list is:
Ross Montgomery for Alex, the Dog and the Unopenable Door
Sarah Naughton for The Hanged Man Rises
Chris Riddell for Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse
Elizabeth Wein for Rose Under Fire
Click on through to the article for the other lists, and see the Costa website for even more info.
...has been released.
Here's the link to the YA list, and here's the link to the masterlist of lists.
Seventeen years ago, the Day occurred: the alien overlords arrived and dropped Icons that unleashed multiple EMP-like pulses that not only cut off the electricity, ended long-range communications, and stopped vehicles in their tracks, but that killed every living thing in the vicinity.
Except for a recurring nightmare, Doloria Maria de la Cruz—'Dol' or 'Dolly' to everyone except the Padre and her best friend, Ro—doesn't remember anything about her life before the Grasslands. All she knows is that she has two secrets to keep: the first is that she survived The Day when no one else in her family, on her block, in her neighborhood did... and the second is a small gray dot on her wrist.
The mark on her wrist is strikingly similar to the two red dots on Ro's wrist, and as both of them are strengthened/weakened by their heightened emotions—Dol can feel other peoples' anguish, Ro has regular bouts of berserker rage—it seems clear that they are both somehow different, somehow other.
Then they are captured by the Embassy forces—humans who serve the aliens—and they discover that not only are there others, but that they might be more powerful than they could have ever imagined...
Ways that this book worked for me: I liked the Merk, Fortis. Though if I'm being entirely honest, that might have had more to do with me picturing him as Mark Sheppard than with the book itself. Then again, if Stohl was shooting for a Badger-like character, kudos to her, because she totally succeeded.
Also, I liked that emotion was a strength. All four Icon Children are capable of drawing on and manipulating different emotions—each of them in very different ways—and it's nice to see an action-adventure story in which emotion is embraced, rather than overcome.
In terms of format, I enjoyed the various documents that finished off each chapter: secret memos, propaganda from the Resistance and from the alien-ruled government, autopsy reports, scribbling from notebooks, and song lyrics. In general, it's an effective way to flesh out worldbuilding.
Ways that this book didn't work for me: For a book that was so concerned with the power of emotion, it left me totally cold. The overwhelming grief that Dol is always working to keep at bay, Ro's rage, even—maybe especially—the love rectangle: none of it moved me. Now, it's possible that I'm just a cold-hearted snake (look into my eyes), but... as I've been known to cry at McDonald's commercials, I don't think a lack of heart on my part is the problem here. The romance felt like it was there because it HAD to be there, not that it was there—as in Yancey's The Fifth Wave, which has such a similar premise that it's almost impossible to avoid making mental comparisons—because that's what the characters were really, truly, feeling. For me, where there is no emotional connection, there is no caring, and where there is no caring, there is boredom.
Also, minor problem with something spoiler-ish that happened towards the end. SPOILER: You know how in The Blue Sword, Harry brings the mountain range down on Thurra and his army by holding Gonturan up in the air and calling on her ancestors? Well, that works, story-wise. It works because Harry was being compelled by a force bigger than her, it worked because the entire book is threaded through with Fate and Old Magic: it's a deus ex machina, but that feels right for the world and the story. Towards the end of Icons, Dol does something very similar, but it's less successful: it felt like Stohl was shooting for those same shivers, that same feel of overwhelming power—and to be fair, some of Dol's monologue at that point IS quite effective—but because it all kind of comes out of nowhere, it feels like a deus ex machina in a world where a deus ex machina doesn't fit. Wow, that was a long explanation for a really minor issue. END SPOILER.
Nutshell: Weak. If you're looking for a post-alien-apocalypse story starring a teenaged girl who deals with confusing and emotionally-engaging romantic entanglements, try Rick Yancey's The Fifth Wave instead.
From the Star Tribune:
Anoka High Principal Mike Farley selected and chaired the book review committee, per district policy. Farley announced their decision Friday.
“The group liked the book. They felt the writing was skillful. We talked a lot about the key themes in the book: bullying, poverty, abuse, love, body image and the power of language,” Farley said. “They felt the high school students would relate to the themes and be familiar with the language.
“We did acknowledge some of the language is rough, but it fits the situation and the characters,” he said. “If you did remove that, it wouldn’t be the same.”
Ahahaha, I love Meg Rosoff.
More from her interview at the B&N blog:
I wrote a practice novel, a horse book, and it became very, very dark. My agent said, “I don’t think I can sell a horse book with so much sex in there.” I said to her, “If it’s supposed to be a book for teenagers, what are the rules?” She told me that really there are no rules—just write the fiercest book you can write and I’ll sell it. Even as an intelligent feminist who grew up in the 60s and 70s, it was almost the first time anyone had said to me, “just be as fierce as you possibly can.” And I just unleashed the floodgates. And I still do when I write. I say to people, “You’re not trying to write a best-seller, you’re trying to write a book that resonates, that really breaks glass.”
Foz Meadows on yet another one of those annoying articles* about YA:
Take, for instance, the immensely judgemental suggestion that the “same girl” who reads popular YA fantasy novels is unlikely to also read real SFF, presumably on the basis that she’s a popular kid rather than one of the “genre nerds”. What this is, in essence, is yet another permutation of the Fake Geek Girl argument: a deeply sexist panic at the idea that, even when they’re reading dystopian novels, watching comic movies and learning archery for fun, ‘regular’ girls can’t really be true fans of real SFF, because their enjoyment of other, more mainstream activities – or, far more often, their possession of conventionally attractive looks – invariably marks them out as dilettantes only feigning nerdness in order to drive boys crazy.
*Which I am totally going to go and read now, because BEING IRRITATED IS FUN LIKEWHOA!!<3!!
...and the prize for Young People's Literature went to Cynthia Kadohata, for The Thing About Luck.
See the rest of the winners & nominees here.
...I wrote about Lizzie Friend's Poor Little Dead Girls.
My editor titled the post A Secret Society Gone Bananas, which pretty much SUMS THE WHOLE THING UP.
Short version: LOTS OF FUN.
Click on through for the longer version:
Sadie doesn’t trust people blindly, and she makes a concerted effort to avoid making stupid choices—there are a few conversations about the idiocy horror movie heroines—and Friend works to give even the most two-dimensional of her characters at least SOME depth. (The British twins, granted, don’t get much in the way of fleshing out, but they are REALLY funny, and since they created their public personas as a very deliberate caricature, I gave them a pass.)
File this one under IT WAS ONLY A MATTER OF TIME.
"If my child picked up the book out of the library, then your child has the ability to do it too," said Bennet. I Hunt Killers was on the Henry Clay High School reading list, along with dozens of other books. Bennett's son chose it from the school library, but she wants to know why it was even an option.
Now Bennett said the book needs to go, and parents need to be kept in the loop. Therefore, school officials are taking a closer look at the list, but want everyone to remember one thing. "You never can judge a book by its cover," said Quenon.
Fayette County Schools said no student is required to read I Hunt Killers, it is simply a book they can choose.
Which reminds me, I really need to read the sequel.
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As I adored the book (so much that I invited the author here for my semi-regular Friday Faves feature), I'm right there with you.
Happily for both of us, we can click over to the Guardian to hear Jonathan Stroud read a brand-new crowd-sourced story called The Dagger in the Desk.