I’ve been talking a lot about girls and girls reading, as well as girls in YA fiction, over the last year. And while talking on the blog is important, I also think it’s important to take these conversations to other venues in order to keep the discussion fresh, vibrant, and engage new voices and ideas.
Archives for May 2014
I’ve written two posts over at Book Riot in the last week. The first is a roundup of 30 YA books coming out — or just recently released — that feature diversity in some capacity. The second post is about how brick and mortar bookstores are a privilege.
If you’re not a regular reader of YA Highway (you should be!) you may have missed that they’re running a web awards. The first round solicited nominees, and we’ve been honored in a number of categories. We’re honored to be considered, especially with all of the other excellent blogs/tumblrs/twitters of amazing members of the YA community on the web.
You can go over there and vote in any or all of the categories, and you can write in other candidates if your favorites haven’t been mentioned.
We’re going to take the next week off blogging, since there’s the double punch of Memorial Day and BEA. I’ll likely link to a couple of Book Riot pieces that I’ve written, but otherwise, no new content will pop up. We’ll be back to our regular plans for posting on Monday, June 2.
In the mean time, I thought it might be worth talking about something near and dear to my heart: my book!
A few weeks ago, I did a podcast with Steve Thomas for Circulating Ideas about the book and we talked at length about diversity, about book talking, and about the value of reaching readers with the right books. It’s not live yet, but when it is, I’ll share it — it was a fantastic conversation.
Beyond that, I’ll post when I have preorder information, as well as when I have Real Actual Copies in my possession. You can expect a few giveaways down the road, as well.
This is a book I am exceptionally proud of and hope is of value to those who work with readers or who are enthusiastic to learn more about contemporary/realistic fiction.
It’s surreal to see a cover of a book with my name on it, let alone a cover that is also easy on the eyes. I can’t wait to share this.
Time to sink your teeth into this month’s debut YA novels. Like usual, I’m sticking to the very strict definition of debut: it is the author’s first novel ever. I did not include any novels that were the author’s first YA title or their first under a pseudonym. I did include one novel this month that was published abroad last year and is being published for the first time in the US since it was her first novel.
As usual, it’s possible I’ve missed a major title or two, so feel free to let me know in the comments. All descriptions are from WorldCat unless otherwise noted.
Camelot Burning by Kathryn Rose: Eighteen-year-old Vivienne, lady-in-waiting to the future queen Guinevere, is secretly apprenticed to Merlin the magician and helps him try to create a steam-powered metal beast to defeat Morgan La Fey, King Arthur’s sorceress sister, when she declares war on Camelot.
Infinite Sky by CJ Flood: When Iris’ mum leaves home, her brother, Sam, goes off the rails and her dad is left trying to hold it all together. So when a family of travellers sets up camp illegally in front of their farm, its the catalyst for a stand-off that can only end in disaster. But to Iris it’s an adventure. She secretly strikes up a friendship with the gypsy boy, Trick, and discovers home can be something as simple as a carved out circle in a field of corn. (Via Goodreads).
These Gentle Wounds by Helene Dunbar: Fifteen-year-old Gordie is trying to build a new life after tragically losing his family, but when his abusive father returns, Gordie must confront the traumas of the past.
End Times by Anna Schumacher: When life in Detroit becomes too hard to bear, Daphne flees to her Uncle Floyd’s home in Carbon County, Wyoming, but instead of solace she finds tumult as the townsfolk declare that the End Times are here, and she may be the only person who can read the signs and know the truth.
Oblivion by Sasha Dawn: Sixteen-year-old Callie Knowles fights her compulsion to write constantly, even on herself, as she struggles to cope with foster care, her mother’s life in a mental institution, and her belief that she killed her father, a minister, who has been missing for a year.
One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva: When Alek’s high-achieving, Armenian-American parents send him to summer school, he thinks his summer is ruined. But then he meets Ethan, who opens his world in a series of truly unexpected ways.
A Girl Called Fearless by Catherine Linka: After a synthetic hormone in beef kills fifty million American women, seventeen-year-old Avie struggles for a normal life in a world where teenage girls are a valuable commodity, but when her father contracts her to marry a rich, older man, Avie decides to run away with her childhood friend and revolutionary, Yates.
The Falconer by Elizabeth May: Lady Aileana Kameron, the only daughter of the Marquess of Douglas, was destined for a life carefully planned around Edinburgh’s social events – right up until a faery killed her mother. Now it’s the 1844 winter season and Aileana slaughters faeries in secret, in between the endless round of parties, tea and balls. Armed with modified percussion pistols and explosives, she sheds her aristocratic facade every night to go hunting. She’s determined to track down the faery who murdered her mother, and to destroy any who prey on humans in the city’s many dark alleyways. But the balance between high society and her private war is a delicate one, and as the fae infiltrate the ballroom and Aileana’s father returns home, she has decisions to make. How much is she willing to lose – and just how far will Aileana go for revenge? Kimberly’s Review.
Wish You Were Italian by Kristin Rae: Seventeen-year-old Pippa Preston, sent to Italy for a three-month art history program, decides instead to see the country on her own, armed with a list of such goals as eating an entire pizza and falling in love with an Italian, but soon finds herself attracted both to a dangerous local boy and an American archaeology student.
Killing Ruby Rose by Jessie Humphries: Ruby Rose, a 17-year-old Southern California girl known for her killer looks and killer SAT scores, becomes a vigilante who is also being hunted.
The Eighth Guardian by Meredith McCardle: Amanda Obermann. Code name Iris. It’s Testing Day. The day that comes without warning, the day when all juniors and seniors at The Peel Academy undergo a series of intense physical and psychological tests to see if they’re ready to graduate and become government operatives. Amanda and her boyfriend Abe are top students, and they’ve just endured thirty-six hours of testing. But they’re juniors and don’t expect to graduate. That’ll happen next year, when they plan to join the CIA—together. But when the graduates are announced, the results are shocking. Amanda has been chosen—the first junior in decades. And she receives the opportunity of a lifetime: to join a secret government organization called the Annum Guard and travel through time to change the course of history. But in order to become the Eighth Guardian in this exclusive group, Amanda must say good-bye to everything—her name, her family, and even Abe—forever. Who is really behind the Annum Guard? And can she trust them with her life? (via Goodreads).
Karen Healey writes killer speculative fiction. I think I liked While We Run even better than I liked the first book, which was fantastic anyway. When We Wake had an ending, but an open-ended one, making this sequel welcome but not required. This time, the story is told from Abdi’s point of view, and it begins a few months after the first book ended. I don’t want to share too much, but I will say that things aren’t great – Abdi and Tegan are in government custody and are being manipulated and tortured into being mouthpieces. They have a plan to get away – but at what cost? And what will they need to do once they’re free?
Much of what makes dystopias so powerful is their connection to our own present-day issues. If you read a synopsis of a dystopia and it makes you roll your eyes, it’s probably because the premise lacks this connection. This is not the speculative fiction Healey writes. Her future world is believable because of the way it differs from the present. She’s taken the issues we grapple with now (or avoid grappling with now) and shown how they could progress, how they could worsen – or perhaps get better. She doesn’t focus on any one thing, either, addressing climate change, government and corporate power, class, race, the effects of colonialism and globalization. The result is a complex future world with a variety of problems big and small, and a diverse group of people struggling with them.
Abdi and Tegan grapple with so very much in this volume. Is collateral damage – any amount – acceptable, even for a just cause? Is complete recovery from trauma possible? At what point does reading people too well become manipulation? How the heck do you fix a world? This stuff is hard. In some cases, there aren’t any good answers. It’s a lot for teenagers to handle; it’s also precisely the kind of thing teen readers see going on in their world.
From a thematic standpoint, this book rocks it. From a craft standpoint, it’s terrific as well. Abdi’s narrative is heartbreaking at times. I feel like sometimes writers of dystopias will have their characters go through really horrible stuff and then gloss over any sort of lasting effects it may have. Healey refuses to do this – it’s obvious Abdi is traumatized by his time in captivity and Healey lets him go through it. She makes us as readers feel it, too. And of course, the plot, which features cryonics and lots of government secrets, is exciting and well-paced, too.
Many of the characters from When We Wake return in the sequel, which means the book is quite diverse. Abdi is a black protagonist, an atheist, the son of Muslims. His three friends are a white semi-religious Christian girl (Tegan), a devout Muslim girl (Bethari), and a transgender girl (Joph). Far from feeling like a checklist, this cast simply feels like the people who exist. You know, the people you see when you take a look at your own community.
Readers who may feel they’ve exceeded their threshold for dystopias and books featuring shitty futures would do well to take a look at this series, which breathes new life into the subgenre. It’s worlds removed from books that bear a striking resemblance to this fun little joke.
Review copy received from the publisher. While We Run is available May 27.