Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Garden of Eden of literature

So check out this great article by Margo Rabb about the blurred lines between YA and adult books, and about the stigma that's still attached to being published as YA: I'm Y.A., and I'm O.K. (It was in the New York Times last year, but I was only just alerted to it.)

Like many, I find myself frequently defending my own interest in the genre, especially since I really seem to have no excuse—I'm not a teacher, or a librarian, or a writer, or a publisher, or a parent of teens. I'm just a fan! A while back I actually decided that I'd better try my hand at writing a YA book myself mainly so people would stop looking at me strangely when I talked about my little hobby (it didn't go well..) But some people just don't know what they're missing—it's not all Sweet Valley High and and problem novels (not that there's anything wrong with that), and it's cool to have gotten in on the ground floor of what's become about the hottest category in publishing.

Thanks for the heads up, Rebecca! (Who found a post about it on

Monday, April 27, 2009

Carnegie Shortlist

And the Carnegie shortlist:
Cosmic, Frank Cottrell Boyce
Black Rabbit Summer, Kevin Brooks
Airman, Eoin Colfer
Bog Child, Siobhan Dowd
Ostrich Boys, Keith Gray
The Knife of Never Letting Go,Patrick Ness
Creature of the Night, Kate Thompson

Locus Finalists

More sci-fi award news! The Locus finalists were announced, and here's the YA novel category:

Little Brother, Cory Doctorow
The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman
Tender Morsels, Margo Lanagan
Nation, Terry Pratchett
Zoe's Tale, John Scalzi

All very familiar names, except for the last one. I started tuning in to John Scalzi's blog only a few months ago after others kept linking to it, but I've never read any of his books, and now Zoe's Tale (which isn't really marketed YA, but apparently is teen-friendly) is getting enough attention than I'm getting excited about reading it.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Andre Norton (Nebula) Award

Also, because it's an exciting two-award weekend, the Nebula Award winners were announced. The winner of the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy is:
Flora's Dare: How a Girl of Spirit Gambles All to Expand Her Vocabulary, Confront a Bouncing Boy Terror, and Try to Save Califa from a Shaky Doom (Despite Being Confined to Her Room) by Ysabeau S. Wilce

And, this year two of the nominees in the general novel category were also YA books, and one of them won: Powers by Ursula K. Le Guin. Score! Full nominee list here.

LA Times Book Prize

Alright, so my parents had been visiting from California from Wednesday until a couple hours ago, and thus I'm super late in posting the winners of the Los Angeles Time Book Prize that were awarded on Friday. But now that I've finally heard who won in the YA category, I couldn't be more pleased!

It's Nation by Terry Pratchett, a book that's so deservedly well-liked, well-reviewed and awards-showered that back in February I predicted that it would end up the award-winningest book of 2008 (according to my own slightly nerdy and highly scientific tabulating system.) The LA Times Book Prize was the last of the major awards to be announced, so the deal might just be sealed. Final numbers and ranks to follow someday if I ever get around to finishing the number-crunching scripts in my little database.

The other finalists in the YA Lit category:
The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary, Candace Fleming
The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman
Dark Dude, Oscar Hijuelos
Swallow Me Whole, Nate Powell

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Recent reading

Ok, so. I have been reading a thing or two.
Like this week I read Streams of Babel, by Carol Plum-Ucci. You know Carol Plum-Ucci. Her first book, The Body of Christopher Creed, got a bunch of attention and big awards. It was a sort of maybe supernatural, maybe not mystery-ish novel about a bullied, socially awkward nerd who disappears one day and is or isn't murdered/suicided/alive. And then she wrote several other supernatural / rational-explanation-for-the-unexplained books that weren't quite as good (at least to me). And then she wrote this one, which is refreshingly different.

Streams of Babel
is about a town a few hours outside of NYC where a couple of people die from unexplained aneurysms that turn out to be caused by middle eastern extremists who've poisoned a small part of the water supply in the town. Part of the story is narrated by the teenage daughter of the first victim who's become sick herself, and part is narrated by a teenage Pakistani internet spy who's enough of a legend in the field to be employed by the CIA and brought to the US to do some spying in the internet cafes where some of the terrorist chatter is coming from. It starts off pretty good and was a bit of a page turner, and then it gets sort of silly. The mystery-solving goes flat. Or at least it seemed that way to me, although maybe terrorists would in fact go into chat rooms and discuss in detail the exact ingredients that go into their mutated poisons using screennames made up of their real first names and the last four digits of their real phone numbers, and maybe they would care enough that people die to actually send assassins to hospitals to finish off victims who aren't dying fast enough. Maybe? I don't know, but I was getting into the first part enough that I know I bored people talking about it, and I haven't read anything in awhile that's made me do that.

I also read Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith, by and Slot Machine by Chris Lynch. And one other skinny paperback that I don't remember the name of.

Look at my yard!

Ferns are unfurling all over my yard! These little pink flowers just started blooming! (Plus tulips, and some spindly white things, the Japanese maple has fresh red leaves, and there are mystery shoots coming up everywhere.

And!! My vegetables beds are ready to plant! They're filled with the beautiful black compost the old tenants left behind in the composter (plus other things that make it look not-black).
Plus, I got grass seed and a 20 pound bag of birdseed so maybe the grass can get less patchy and the feeder won't keep going unfilled. Oh! And I got all kinds of seeds. Vegetables mostly, but also hollyhocks to go along the back fence! I'm completely exhausted. (And super super appreciative of the bartered-labor help I got.)

But you know a good YA book you should read if you want to get excited about gardening? The Canning Season, by Polly Horvath--a National Book Award winner I totally love, but not everyone does. It's mostly about this girl who gets sent to live with her very old and eccentric aunts on a blueberry farm in a remote bear-filled part of Maine (the sort of story that can definitely go either way if you're not Roald Dahl, but Polly Horvath makes it work very well.) But then this other girl shows up because her guardian mistook the house for an orphanage and she's kind of acerbic and jaded, but she has a passion for gardening that's infectious.
Also, in a very different vein, another favorite of mine: How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff. It doesn't get to the gardening stuff until the end, but a traumatized-until-he's-nearly-mute character uses planting flowers expressively as a way to cope with the war horrors he's seen. It's much more interesting than I just made it sound.
P.S. JL? Shut up about your website. I am way too tired to finish it tonight, but it will be done before your deadline, I promise.