Tuesday, December 16, 2008

So you know Zoe Trope? Who published Please Don't Kill the Freshman when she was still in high school? She's in library school now! And she blogs about it sometimes!

And this picture illustrating her post "what do you learn in library school, anyway?" is cracking me up because it is just so stupid and true. I had these same photocopies! And I'm really grateful for them, because it used to be pretty hard for me to understand that sometimes information-seeking behavior leads to success and other times to failure, and that information use can cause either satisfaction or non-satisfaction, depending. These handouts cleared things right up. And let me tell you, I use this knowledge every single day in my fulfilling career.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Here is the beginning of a discussion about Headlong, by Kathe Koja on the New Yorker website:

LIGAYA MISHAN: Did you have certain expectations of “Headlong,” given the Y.A. label? Did it confound or surpass those expectations—or prove them right?

MACY HALFORD: The book totally surpassed my expectations. I tend to think of young-adult fiction as sort of facile—a straightforward style, uncomplicated themes and morals—but this had a complexity, an ambiguity, that surprised me... It fit my expectations in terms of length and enjoyableness, though: I assume that anything branded “young adult” needs to have a plotline that captures a teen’s attention, and also needs to be not too long or challenging.
Facile, uncomplicated, short and not challenging. Got it. (Is there anything more tiresome than reading a review of YA lit written by someone who apparently doesn't read much of it, and therefore is startled to find that they've read, like, an actual good book, and then spends half the article debating the definition of YA and the YA audience?)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Washington Post's Best Kids Books

And the Washington Post's best-of is out, conveniently pre-sorted by age. Some very familiar titles on the teen list:

After Tupac and D Foster, Jacqueline Woodson
The Book of Jude, Kimberley Heuston
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, E. Lockhart
The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
Little Brother, Cory Doctorow
Nation, Terry Pratchett
My Most Excellent Year, Steve Kluger

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Weekend bathtub reading

I'm someone who reads a lot, but also someone who can only read when there's nothing else to do. Which means I do almost all of my reading on the subway, and on the weekends in the bathtub. I take long long baths. Often on a Sunday morning with a cup of coffee. But on this Sunday morning I was already well-caffeinated, but hadn't yet eaten breakfast and had the great idea to take a snack (a sack of Turkish pistachios) into the tub with me along with my book (Fly on the Wall, by E. Lockhart.) The book was chosen because I hadn't yet read anything by Lockhart other than her excellent NBA-nominated The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks and had checked out several others from the library on Saturday, and also because it was slim and of a one-bath size. The pistachios were a poorer choice. Delicious, but distracting what with all the shell removal, plus little bits kept falling into the water despite my best efforts, and when it was all over I had to drain the tub and take a shower to get the flakes of pistachio skin out of my hair. Quite gross. So. I probably won't be eating in the tub again anytime soon, but I will definitely be reading more Lockhart.

Fly on the Wall is about a girl, a comic book artist, who goes to a New York City high school for the arts, feels blah and ordinary and almost friendless among all the other artsy alterna-kids, and is confused by boys' behavior, and then temporarily becomes – literally – a fly on the wall in the boys' locker room. Where she secretly and anonymously gets to see lots of body hair and penises, develops a male-butt rating scale of A+ to F, and hears lots of conversations and discovers the boys' relationships when girls aren't around, their insecurities, bravado and sometimes meanness. Their humanness basically. (Plus she discovers that their locker room is twice the size of the girls' and calls the principal out on Title IX and gets it fixed. Which is totally awesome.) It's a pretty smart book. And funny.

See also: Lady: My Life as a Bitch, by the amazing Melvin Burgess for a more Kafka-esque version of teen girl shapeshifting, and Fade by Robert Cormier (one of my all-time favorite books) for a gorgeously ugly take on what can be seen and done when you're invisible to those around you.

Favorite Children's Books of 2008

"2008 was a year of dark thoughts — although very good reading — in young adult books." The LA Times highlights four YA books in its brief best-of piece:
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, The Other Side of the Island by Allegra Goodman, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, and Graceling by Kristin Cashore.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

I am such a snob

I find myself faced with a dilemma. I've just discovered a book award that is perfectly legitimate, and has a young adult category, but I absolutely do not want to start tracking it: It's the Rita Award for Best Young Adult Romance, awarded by the Romance Writers of America.

There's nothing wrong with genre awards of course, and every genre has it's own standards that may or may not be the same as the standards of the more high-brow literary awards. In this case, the judging guidelines seem astonishingly simple: "In this category, the love story is an important element of the novel, and the end of the book is emotionally satisfying and optimistic." Fair enough I suppose, but oh my god, in 1992 the Rita went to Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep by Lurlene McDaniel (!). Yes, Lurlene McDaniel, author of many, many tearjerkers about disease-ridden kids with titles such as Too Young to Die, Six Months to Live, Don't Die My Love. And so on.

Now, when I was an actual pre-adolescent I devoured her books, sobbing my way through them. They were almost as great as Sweet Valley High. The leukemia-stricken girl who goes to cancer camp and eventually goes into remission but her best cancer friend dies? Heartbreaking! The girl who collapses due to diabetic shock at school and is caught by the beautiful boy who later falls in love with her in the hospital? Swoon-inducing! I read and re-read them all, and diagnosed myself with many diseases. But, come on. Do I have to include this sort of thing in my comprehensive database of award-winning literature?

Well, yes. I guess I do if comprehensiveness is my goal. So that's that. I'll get to work on it, and on the positive side, this year's winner is the quite respectable Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Finally, National Book has uploaded video from the awards ceremony last month. Daniel Handler ("Lemony Snicket") presented the award for young people's literature, and I'm such a sap that even though I knew who won and even though I don't really approve, I still got a tiny bit choked up when Judy's name was called. Here's the video of her lovely acceptance speech:

Judy Blundell's 2008 National Book Award Ceremony Acceptance Speech from National Book Foundation on Vimeo

Horn Book Fanfare

Horn Books has released their Best Books of 2008 list. Here are the five YA books on the fiction list:
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. 2: The Kingdom on the Waves, M.T. Anderson
The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman
Tender Morsels, Margo Lanagan
Nation, Terry Pratchett

Monday, December 1, 2008

Let the Right One In

If you're like me and you've read all the Twilight books because it seemed like you had to since YA's your thing and all and you have to be in the know, and you started out thinking they were more or less ok—frivolous but page-turny and all in good fun—but then you got offended at the effed-up, borderline-abusive relationships in book three and were disgusted by book four and you can't quite believe how many thousands of pages of reading time you spent on them and by now you wish you never had to think about them again but you can't escape all the movie hype, and wish there were an alternative—like a real vampire film you could go to instead?

Just go see this. Now now now. It's still got kids involved in intense relationships, but it also has some seriously beautiful blood. Plus hunger and shame and terrible choices. The scene in the swimming pool alone is worth the price of the ticket.

Multi-award-winning writer Justine Larbalestier likes it too: "Let the Right One In is a Swedish vampire movie set in the early 1980s. It’s also one of the best genre movies I’ve seen in years—scrap that—it’s one of the best movies—no modifier needed—that I’ve seen in years. You all need to go see it. Not least because every time I think there’s nothing new that can be done with vampires, someone does something new and fabulous."

Saturday, November 29, 2008

SLJ Best Books of 2008

The School Library Journal has just released its Best Books of 2008. As they say: "It was an amazingly strong year for YA novels, several with hard-hitting, powerful themes." So, for your convenience and mine, here they are, the 15 YA novels on the list:

What I Saw and How I Lied, Judy Blundell
Graceling, Kristin Cashore
The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
Little Brother, Cory Doctorow
Paper Towns, John Green
Tender Morsels, Margo Lanagan
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, E. Lockhart
Princess Ben, Cathering Gilbert Murdock
The Door of No Return, Sarah Mussi
Sunrise Over Fallujah, Walter Dean Myers
The Adoration of Jenna Fox, Mary. E. Pearson
Nation, Terry Pratchett
Here Lies Arthur, Philip Reeve
Becoming Billie Holiday, Carole Boston Weatherford
Impossible, Nancy Werlin
***Don't click this link if you're an actual teen!***
It's YA's own Sherman Alexie making an appearance on Savage Love to answer the age-old question: Where can I find Native-American porn?

YA in the Papers

An Interview with 'Weetzie Bat' Author Francesca Lia Block
Oh my god, she's writing a Weetzie prequel! The Weetzie Bat books haven't aged so well for me, but I know how amazing I used to think Witch Baby was, how I read it about eight hundred times and cried every single time. You know how she roller-skates around town snapping magical photographs and broods poetically and plays drums in the dark and shaves her head? I once gave a copy of it to a boy I liked because I thought if he read it he would totally get me, but I'm pretty sure he never even opened it. (Or returned it.) Jerk.

M.T. Anderson Gives Young Adults What They Want: Complex Epic Tales They Can Get Lost In
Fawning. The usual.

Post-Apocalypic YA Novels
Is there any better sub-genre? John Green writes about Hunger Games and The Dead and the Gone.

Plus a troubling fact: Did you know if you go to cnn.com and try to set up a feed of articles on "Young Adult Books," every single article it returns is related to Harry Potter?

Friday, November 28, 2008

So the New York Times has just published their Notable Children's Books of 2008, and there's some solid YA in the mix. Unsurprisingly, Octavian Nothing II is listed, plus The Hunger Games (which I can't believe I haven't read yet, but I believe everyone else in the world who is raving about it), Sunrise over Fallujah, Little Brother, and Disreputable History. Not bad.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

If you have nothing better to do...

Even I'm not this into it, but the National Book Awards Ceremony will be aired on C-SPAN's BookTV on Sunday (Nov. 23), at 10 p.m. eastern. See Laurie Halse Anderson's fab dress! Get choked up watching Judy Blundell accept her award!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


National Book has spoken, and all I have to say is that I am going to have to go read this one again. It would absolutely have been my last choice from the finalists—not that it's not a good book, but it's just sort of blandly meh good, not good good. Or so I think after just one reading. I'm totally ready to stand corrected. I'll read it again tomorrow.

You know, last year, when Story of a Girl became a finalist I was kind of shocked because I had read it several months earlier very very quickly and was so bored I totally skimmed through the second half. But then I read it again more carefully and realized I was wrong and it's actually quite good and not at all what it seems it is on the surface. Not my-personal-favorite-book-of-the-year good, but solidly good.

So, ok. I'm going to go now, cry a little, then try to come to terms with the fact that Disreputable History (which I've now re-read thrice and love more each time) didn't win. Why am I always wrong about these things?? Ack!


Ostrich Boys, Keith Gray
The Carbon Diaries, Saci Lloyd
Just Henry, Michelle Magorian
Broken Soup, Jenny Valentine

Way to keep all books for actual child-aged children off the shortlist in the children's book category, Costa [Whitbread] Book Awards! If only all mixed-age awards committees were so devoted to the YA.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness just won the 2008 Booktrust Teenage Prize!

I think this one's just pretty good, but I didn't read all the books on the shortlist yet, so I can't judge. And who cares? Literary sci-fi/fantasy/speculative fiction has been getting loads of attention lately, and that is never a bad thing.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Everyone who knows me knows that I’m a big fan of so-called conspiracy theories and similar wacky ideas, and they just don’t show up enough in YA books. You can imagine how pleased I was when last year’s Printz went to The White Darkness, by Geraldine McCaughrean, a pretty good book about a man obsessed with proving that the earth is hollow and the naïve girl who semi-unwittingly gets dragged along on his treacherous journey to the Antartic to find the truth.

Yes, “Uncle” Victor is presented as a dangerous kook—and is—but I really appreciate that he’s never specifically proven wrong. When he falls down the hole that he hopes is an opening to the inner earth, it’s never quite stated that he falls to his death, only that as he loses his grip his face reveals that he suddenly realizes the truth. What if the truth is not that he was wrong all along, but that he’s found what he hoped for? Unlikely, of course, but it doesn’t matter. The point is, I love reading about weird stuff.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

"It may be hard to conceive of making the claim about a young adult book, but I believe “Octavian Nothing” will someday be recognized as a novel of the first rank..."
–Sez Jerry Griswold in a piece for the New York Times' Children’s Books Fall Special Issue.

Well, duh.

I can't personally vouch for Volume II since I'm only halfway through, and my hardback copy is heavy enough that my shoulders hurt from lugging it around so I've had to do most of my reading in the bathtub. But the first volume of Octavian Nothing is—according to my rigorous calculations—the award-winningest YA book ever, easily beating the previous record-holder (Monster, by Walter Dean Myers).

And is it really still so hard to imagine that YA fiction can hold its own among literature in general? Still?? Perhaps part of the problem is that this kind of serious literature often gets relegated to the children's section of the paper. This article, for instance, happens to be sandwiched between a review of Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears and one covering new trends in alphabet books.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


And now, the day after the election, I take a break from my many, many posts about YA lit to just say: th*nk f***ing g*d. Really. I caught myself getting a little misty-eyed in the voting booth, and I’m still (inwardly) shrieking with delight right this second. This is a big deal.

(I stole the pic of one of NYC’s antique and totally awesome voting machines from Maureen’s post over on YA for Obama.)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Booktrust Teenage Prize

The shortlist was announced back in September (I'm trying to catch up on things here, since I only just started this little blog.) I haven't read any of these yet, so I've got a lot to do before the winner is announced November 18th.

The Red Necklace, Sally Gardner
Snakehead, Anthony Horowitz
Apache, Tanya Landman
The Knife That Killed Me
, Anthony McGowan
The Knife of Never Letting Go, Patrick Ness
Creature of the Night, Kate Thompson

Booktrust is just for UK books, if you didn't know. And by the way, Booktrust's children's book award—the horrifically named "Nestlé Smartie's Book Prize"—was discontinued this year. So that's one less thing to keep on top of.

I can't believe I didn't know about this before.

It's social networking for YA-ers who are into Obama, started by rad award-winning author Maureen Johnson. Judy Blume is there, for pete's sake.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Speaking of the National Book Awards

Last year’s winner, Sherman Alexie, was on the Colbert Report last week, still (sort-of) promoting my second-favorite 2007 nominee The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

Incidentally, while looking up the Amazon link for the book, I see that someone is trying to sell a signed first edition for 200 bucks. Really?? It's only a year old! He must have signed about a billion of them. Even I have one.

It begins...

It’s the best time of year—YA awards season!
Over the next few months hundreds of new books are going to be added to my database of award-winning young adult literature. And for the first time, I’m going to be totally on top of it if it kills me. Every year, I have the best intentions, but there are just so many to keep track of.

First up, one of the highest profile awards:
The National Book Award for Young People’s Literature

Five finalists were announced last month.
Chains, Laurie Halse Anderson
The Underneath, Kathi Appelt
What I Saw and How I Lied, Judy Blundell,
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, E. Lockhart,
The Spectacular Now, Tim Tharp

The awards ceremony is November 19th, but I’m tentatively ready to predict the winner now (I haven’t read The Spectacular Now yet, since it hadn’t been released when the nominees were announced, so I may have to change my mind after I read it this week.) For whatever it’s worth, I’ve never picked the right winner, not once--but I keep trying.

I think this one will win:
The Underneath

Sure it's a tear-jerker about abandoned kittens and a blues-singing hound (among other things), but it’s also exactly as magical and poetic and haunting and rare as the reviewers say it is.

But I hope this one does:*
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
It’s hard to believe that someone could pull off such a smart, readable, inspiring and funny book featuring a bunch of entitled prep school kids and a plot that revolves around Frankie’s fascination with the Panopticon, feminism and the old boys’ club, plus P.G. Wodehouse and grammar hijinks. It’s a bit like John Green, only more so.

*I hold out hope because like I said, I'm always wrong, and also Frankie’s a little precocious-y and the NBAs have leaned that way before.

And now we wait.