Weekly roundup of YA, children’s lit, and other book-related links

*Very interesting post at Disability in Kidlit, “Emma Crees, Courtney Gilfillian, and s.e. smith review Say What You Will.”


*Teen Vogue is talking about “The Best YA Books You Should Read This Fall.”  Great list! There was only one I haven’t already read/didn’t have on my TBR list.
*At Stacked, Kelly Jensen has a great post up, “The Big Male YA Narrator Round-up.” Given that a library professional recently said to me “there are no boys in YA,” I find it extra useful. Can I secretly send it to her?


*YALSA announced the winners of their first ever Teen Read Week Blogging Contest and I’m thrilled to share that Abby Hendrickson, one of the members of the YA book club that I run, was selected as a winner. She’s working on a great blog–I can’t wait for everyone to read it. Congrats to this smart, articulate girl!


*At Teen Librarian Toolbox, go read “Teens Talk About Life, Reading, and Blogging.”  Stories about teens in their own words? Yes, please!


*At A Chair, a Fireplace, & a Tea Cozy, “Reading: It’s Good for You!”  From the post:

“I read for fun. Not for enlightenment, not to be a better person, not to learn about the universal human experience. I read to get scared, I read to fall in love, I read to feel less alone, I read for adventure, I read for so many reasons that all fall under…. because I want to.

And if that’s why I read, why shouldn’t that be OK for teens and kids?”


*Love this post from A.S. King about her new novel and what happened leading up to it. In “We Make Paper Boats; We Cannot Control the Wind”she writes:

“So what drove me to quit writing in late February 2013?
I have no idea, but I did.
I said, “I’m done. I quit. I don’t want to do this anymore.”
I decided I’d go work in a library and maybe go back to school at night.
I decided I’d do anything but write another novel.
Eighteen was enough.

I lasted two days.”

Review: Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour




About the book
Title: Everything Leads to You

Author: Nina LaCour

Age level: YA

Genre: Contemporary

Subjects: Los Angeles, Movies, Actors and acting, Families, Lesbians, Dating and relationships, Friendship

Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group

Publication date: 5/15/2014

Format read in: Hardcover

Source of book: Library

Pages: 320

Series: No

Cover: Lovely in an eye-catching way. Suits the book well.

Why review this book?: Positive buzz


Summary (via bn.com):

“I want you to do something with the place. Something epic.”
After being entrusted with her brother’s Los Angeles apartment for the summer as a graduation gift, Emi Price isn’t sure how to fulfill his one condition: that something great take place there while he’s gone. Emi may be a talented young production designer, already beginning to thrive in the competitive film industry, but she still feels like an average teen, floundering when it comes to romance.
But when she and her best friend, Charlotte, discover a mysterious letter at the estate sale of a Hollywood film legend, Emi must move beyond the walls of her carefully crafted world to chase down the loose ends of a movie icon’s hidden life, leading her to uncover a decades’ old secret and the potential for something truly epic: love.


The details

Characters: I’m sorry, but you’re just going to have to accept the fact that this is going to be a gushing review. Every single aspect of this book was wonderful to me, but especially the strong, unique characters. In many ways, it’s easy to forget that Emi and Charlotte are teenagers–their jobs sound sophisticated and they have a lot of freedom (as they spend most of their summer living in Emi’s brother’s apartment). But they are teenagers–they’re flawed, they make mistakes, they lose their cool, they’re short-sighted, and they have big feelings about many things. Once Ava and Jamal join the story, we see another side of teenage life, as both are living in a shelter and have had much less privileged lives than Emi and Charlotte have led. Jamal is an excellent example of how to write a non-white secondary character and not have that character feel like a token. He’s a great friend to Ava, is working hard to get his life where he wants it to be headed, and has no problem challenging Emi to think hard about her life and her privilege (in a way that comes off as totally organic and not Jamal teaching Emi some life lesson). All of the secondary characters stood out as well-rendered.


Writing: I’m not much on kinda empty terms like “beautiful,” but “beautiful” is what I’m going with here. The writing flows well, the descriptions of Los Angeles and aspects of Emi’s life made everything feel so real. I felt right in the middle of the story, totally pulled in.


Plot: In many ways, you can kind of tell exactly where this story will go after only reading a few chapters. But I’m okay with that in this case. It was such a joy watching the plot unfold, seeing the mystery element mix with the love story angle. Some of the twists and turns feel a little too convenient, and a few loose plot points dangle, but the big picture of this story is a unique and engaging one.


Ending: I cried. So there.


Liked: Everything. No, really. Honestly. Everything.


Disliked: Other than things sometimes working out too easily, nothing. I adored this book.


BONUS!: Book about LGBTQ main character that is not *at all* a coming out story! Hard-working teenagers! An amazingly close and supportive friendship. Interesting parents!


In summary
Verdict: This book rockets to the top of my “best reads of 2014″ list. It was the kind of book that I force myself to read slowly, to enjoy, to make it last. LaCour’s characters and setting were so strong that I felt kind of lonely after finishing the book. Truly a wonderful book.


“There’s still this thing that happens after you break up with someone. It barely takes any time to work. All you have to do is continue with your life, and then when you find yourself in a room with her again it’s as if you’re a different person. Maybe your posture is a little more confident. Maybe your laughter is louder. You’re wearing a perfume she’s never smelled before and you have a new way of pinning back your hair. You don’t even have to say anything because your presence alone is enough to say Look at who I am without you.”


“Because in the conversation beneath this one, what we’re really saying is I am an imperfect person. Here are my failures. Do you want me anyway?


“When I was a young man I fancied myself a philosopher. I enjoyed thinking about the tragedies of life. I thought all of the feeling out of everything. But not anymore.”


Author’s website

Author’s Twitter

See also: LaCour’s essay on Medium, “Love Can Be Simple.” Breathtaking.

Waiting on Wednesday: Transgender Teen Memoirs

waitingonwednesdayWaiting On Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking The Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

This week I’m featuring two books that I’m anxiously awaiting, Some Assembly Required by Arin Andrews and Rethinking Normal by Katie Rain Hill. You can head on over to Teen Librarian Toolbox next Tuesday, September 16th to read my reviews of these titles. 


Summary from bn.com for Some Assembly Required:someassembly

Seventeen-year-old Arin Andrews shares all the hilarious, painful, and poignant details of undergoing gender reassignment as a high school student in this winning memoir.

We’ve all felt uncomfortable in our own skin at some point, and we’ve all been told that “it’s just a part of growing up.” But for Arin Andrews, it wasn’t a phase that would pass. He had been born in the body of a girl and there seemed to be no relief in sight…

In this revolutionary memoir, Arin details the journey that led him to make the life-transforming decision to undergo gender reassignment as a high school junior. In his captivatingly witty, honest voice, Arin reveals the challenges he faced as a girl, the humiliation and anger he felt after getting kicked out of his private school, and all the changes—both mental and physical—he experienced once his transition began. Arin also writes about the thrill of meeting and dating a young transgender woman named Katie Hill…and the heartache that followed after they broke up.

Some Assembly Required is a true coming-of-age story about knocking down obstacles and embracing family, friendship, and first love. But more than that, it is a reminder that self-acceptance does not come ready-made with a manual and spare parts. Rather, some assembly is always required.

Summary from bn.com for Rethinking Normal:

rethinkingIn her unique, generous, and affecting voice, nineteen-year-old Katie Hill shares her personal journey of undergoing gender reassignment.

Have you ever worried that you’d never be able to live up to your parents’ expectations? Have you ever imagined that life would be better if you were just invisible? Have you ever thought you would do anything—anything—to make the teasing stop? Katie Hill had and it nearly tore her apart.

Katie never felt comfortable in her own skin. She realized very young that a serious mistake had been made; she was a girl who had been born in the body of a boy. Suffocating under her peers’ bullying and the mounting pressure to be “normal,” Katie tried to take her life at the age of eight years old. After several other failed attempts, she finally understood that “Katie”—the girl trapped within her—was determined to live.

In this first-person account, Katie reflects on her pain-filled childhood and the events leading up to the life-changing decision to undergo gender reassignment as a teenager. She reveals the unique challenges she faced while unlearning how to be a boy and shares what it was like to navigate the dating world and experience heartbreak for the first time in a body that matched her gender identity. Told in an unwaveringly honest voice, Rethinking Normal is a coming-of-age story about transcending physical appearances and redefining the parameters of “normalcy” to embody one’s true self.


 Publisher for both: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers

Publication date for both: 9/30/2014


Why I’m excited for them: I try to read as much YA as possible that features QUILTBAG characters, and I’m thrilled to see the increase in visibility of trans* young adults. (See also my reviews for Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin, Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills, and Transgender Lives: Complex Stories, Complex Voices by Kirstin Cronn-Mills.)

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Underrated Books in YA

toptentuesdayIt’s time for Top Ten Tuesday! Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. 


This week’s topic:  Top Ten Underrated Authors or Books in YA. I had a little help with this one; I polled the YA book club and teen advisory board I facilitate through the public library and a few of the members offered up some titles. Here are our picks: 


1. Anything by Ellen Wittlinger. A. says, “Ellen Wittlinger is my favorite author. She’s won awards (I think…) but everyone I’ve ever talked to hasn’t read her books. (You don’t count; you’re in the acknowledgements of Hard Love.) ” (FYI, I call this fabulous teen friend of mine “90s me” because she is freakishly like my teenage self. I now do most of my hair dyeing vicariously through her. I’m always so surprised to learn which authors I feel like everyone would of course know, but actual teens don’t necessarily know.)


2. A. also says, “Better Than Running at Night is A+, and no one really ever talks about it. ” (Again, she and I remain in sync. I absolutely love everything Hillary Frank has written–I’ve been a big fan ever since meeting Hillary in 2002 through an event at Simmons. I’m also always happy to hear her pieces on This American Life or other shows, and her podcast The Longest Shortest Time is required listening for anyone who is a parent.)


3. Our book club is filled with girls whose names start with the letter A. It’s kinda freaky. So let’s call this girl A2. She sent me an email about the book Six Months Later by Natalie D. Richards. Good pick—I’ve never even heard of this book. I looked it up online and see it has a lot of really positive reviews. Adding this one to my infinite TBR list.


4. The Sharp Time by Mary O’Connell. I read a LOT of books in a year. I’ve been reviewing professionally for more than 10 years at this point. I can’t say that I commit the details of every plot of every book to memory. But this book has stuck with me. In the link, you can see from my VOYA review that I thought it was pretty amazing. Sandinista Jones (what a name!) is angry, lonely, afraid, and weird. This story of what a teenager does when left on her own with no one to care for her or advocate for her is filled with memorable characters and a lot of pain. Great read.


5. Winter Town by Stephen Emond. Do you know this book? You should know this book. I picked it up because of the excellent cover and was not disappointed. A great story about friends who reunite once a year, the ways people can change, and the secrets we keep. Bonus factor of drawings and comics interspersed throughout.


6. The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs by Jack Gantos. It might be my life’s quest to make a teenager actually read this. I loved this weird Gothic story about obsessive love and taxidermy. “Obsessive love and taxidermy,” I mean, you don’t really need more than that to at least go check it out, do you?


7. The Sky Always Hears Me and the Hills Don’t Mind by Kirstin Cronn-Mills. It’s out of print now, as a paper book, but you can still get the ebook, and you should. This sat on my shelf far too long before I got around to reading it, then I kicked myself for not getting to it sooner. Cronn-Mills deftly captures life in a small town. The writing is lyrical and Morgan, the main character, is fantastic. A few of the book club members read this over the summer, too, and thought it was great. Made me wish I’d ever driven somewhere secluded in my own stifling small town and screamed at the sky.


8. MELINA MARCHETTA: It’s entirely possible you see this name on the list and think, she’s not underrated! She’s completely brilliant and everyone knows her! BUT I don’t find a whole lot of teens who know her. Or I’ll find people have heard of her, but not read her. I plucked Saving Francesca out of the pile of ARCs at work one day in 2003ish and was blown away. The Piper’s Son was an amazing follow-up to Francesca. But it’s Jellicoe Road that stands out to me as one of the most fantastic books I’ve ever read in my life. EVER.


9. Adam Rapp. Here’s the thing: most of the adults  I know who read YA certainly know who Adam Rapp is, but not everyone has read anything by him. The teens I know haven’t even heard of him. I read The Buffalo Tree in graduate school, then read everything else of his as it came out. My favorite book of his is Punkzilla (my VOYA review can be found in that link). The words that are probably used most to describe his work would be grim, gritty, dark, and disturbing. If you know me, you know that those descriptors make his work immediately appealing to me. If you don’t know his work, check him out ASAP.


10. Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway. This is another book that I looooved, but none of the actual teens I know have read. Audrey becomes wildly famous after her ex-boyfriend writes a song about her, and that song becomes a smash hit. Funny and smart, this was such a fun read.


hardlovebetterthanrunning6monthssharp timewinter townlove cursesky alwaysjellicoepunkzillaaudrey wait

Review: Girl Defective by Simmone Howell




About the book: 
Title: Girl Defective

Author: Simmone Howell

Age level: YA

Genre: Realistic

Subjects: Record stores, Families, Australia, Death, Misfits, Music

Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Publication date: 9/2/2014

Format read in: e-ARC

Source of book: Edelweiss

Pages: 320

Series: No

Cover: Dear cover: Will you marry me?

Why review this book?: Cover grabbed my attention. Summary of the book grabbed it even more. Also? Australian YA ALWAYS delivers.


Summary (via bn.com):

In the tradition of High Fidelity and Empire Records, this is the literary soundtrack to Skylark Martin’s strange, mysterious, and extraordinary summer.

This is the story of a wild girl and a ghost girl; a boy who knew nothing and a boy who thought he knew everything.

It’s a story about Skylark Martin, who lives with her father and brother in a vintage record shop and is trying to find her place in the world. It’s about ten-year-old Super Agent Gully and his case of a lifetime. And about beautiful, reckless, sharp-as-knives Nancy. It’s about tragi-hot Luke, and just-plain-tragic Mia Casey. It’s about the dark underbelly of a curious neighborhood. It’s about summer, and weirdness, and mystery, and music.

And it’s about life and death and grief and romance. All the good stuff.


The details:

Characters: The characters are all so fantastic. They’re such… characters. Well, they are! Sky knows her family is odd. “We, the Martin family, were like inverse superheroes, marked by our defects,” Sky says.  Her dad runs a vintage record shop and spends most of his free time drinking. Her brother, Gully, goes everywhere wearing a pig-snout and taking copious notes for investigations and reports. Sky is left mostly in charge of Gully, as their mother left years ago to “follow her art.”  Keeping track of her brother and working at the record shop, in addition to going to school, is a lot of responsibility. Sky lets some of that responsibility slide a bit when she indulges in typical teenage things like experimenting with drugs and alcohol, obsessing over a cute (but mysterious and maybe troubled) boy (Luke), and worshiping her cool older friend, Nancy.


Plot:  Figure out who threw a brick through the record shop’s window. Figure out what happened to Luke’s sister and why Sky can’t stop thinking about it. Figure out what Nancy’s deal is. Hope dad stops drinking so much. Wonder if him being reunited with an old friend, now a cop, will help with that. Hope Gully gets through every day okay, pig-snout mask in tact. Figure out what being a teenager entails. Kiss Luke? Save the record shop? Make a friend? Lots of great things both big and small happening throughout the story.


Ending: Change and loss doesn’t have to be all bad.


Liked: The setting, the Australian slang, the awesome record store, the music references, Sky’s flaws and mistakes (and how she doesn’t always learn from them or make good choices), the family dynamic, and the humor.


Disliked: Despite all of the things that happen in the story, this is very much a character-driven story. For me, that’s great. I love those kind of stories. For people who need constant action, parts may read a bit slow.


In summary: 

Verdict: An absolute must for fans of Aussie YA, for fans of music, for fans of towns populated by memorable weirdos, and for anyone who likes to see characters struggle with figuring out who they are. Magnificently well written and I will definitely be checking out her other books.



“Night fell soft as a shrug.”


“Before Nancy I never smoke or drank; what I knew about sex, you could ice on a cupcake.”


“Sometimes I thought if it wasn’t for music, I wouldn’t be able to cry or laugh or feel giddy or wild. Music was a valve.”


Listening to Kraftwerk’s “Neon Lights,” Sky thinks, “The song was so long and glittery-sad, it made me feel like I was falling off the face of the earth.”



Author’s website

Author’s Twitter


Weekly roundup of YA, children’s lit, and other book-related links

*I was over at Teen Librarian Toolbox this week, writing about talking with my teen book club about sexual violence in YA books. I’m also their newest contributor! I don’t enjoy writing about myself, but you can also go check out the post where I introduce myself to the TLT world!


*The Horn Book has “2013-2014 Yearbook Superlatives.” 


*At School Library Journal, “Playing with Narrative.”  From the post: “Fiction for teens continues to evolve, and authors are pushing the boundaries of the genre in creative ways. Whether it’s a heavily illustrated volume or a multi-perspective narrative, YA books have taken lives of their own, especially evident in these novels in verse, poetic prose picks, and diary-format entries.”


*At The Loft’s blog, Writer’s Block, Andrew Karre has a post up, “Wanting Diversity.” In it he writes, ” They don’t need diverse books because diverse books are good for them; they need diverse books because they want them. Because they have taste. Diversity isn’t medicine; it’s cuisine.”


*At The Storyteller’s Inkpot, Swati Avasti has a great post up, called “Path to Your Voice.” 


*Do you know about this great website called Let Toys be Toys? They have great new resources for teachers who want to challenge gender stereotypes. Check it out—check out their whole site, actually!


*Leigh Ann Kopans has a fantastic post up, “Le’ts Talk About ‘Clean’ YA.”  My favorite part:

I’d like to enter in my own definition of “Clean YA.” Clean YA is writing that doesn’t shame, doesn’t discriminate, doesn’t judge. It’s YA that encourages healthy relationships and glorifies self-care and respect for everyone.

 My version of clean YA recognizes that sexuality is something that develops naturally in teens, and assures readers that it’s healthy and normal to have those feelings and urges. It’s YA that communicates that the reader is a worthy individual, regardless of what she decides to do with her vagina. “


*Head on over to Diversity in YA for their 2014 back to school giveaway. Lots of great stuff there!


*From the My High School Friends Do Awesome Things files: Check out the latest page in the webcomic The Dead Have Issues. 



Review: Play Me Backwards by Adam Selzer


About the book: 
Title: Play Me Backwards

Author: Adam Selzer

Age level: YA

Genre: Realistic fiction

Subjects: Satan, Relationships, High school, Iowa, Ice cream shops, Weirdos, Slushees, Moby Dick, Slackers, Opposites attract

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers

Publication date: 8/26/2014

Format read in: e-ARC

Source of book: Edelweiss

Pages: 288

Series: No

Cover: YES! Combined with the title, I would absolutely pluck this off the shelf. Jumping! Devil horns! Tell me more!

Why review this book?: Anything being billed as Satanic YA is something I want in on. Like I said, tell me more!


Summary (from bn.com):

A committed slacker enlists the help of his best friend (who may or may not be the devil) to get his act together in this novel filled with humor, awkwardness, and honesty, ideal for fans of The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Leon Harris isn’t exceptional and he isn’t popular. He’s the kind of guy that peaked in middle school, when once upon a time he was in the “gifted” program and on the fast track to Ivy League glory.

Now, a high school senior, he’s a complete slacker who spends his time hanging out in a third-rate ice cream parlor with his best friend, Stan, a guy who (jokingly, Leon thinks) claims to be Satan. Committed to his sloth, Leon panics when he finds out that Anna, the love of his life aka middle school girlfriend, might be moving back to town.

Determined to get his act together, Leon asks Stan for help. Stan gives him a few seemingly random and mysterious assignments. Date a popular girl. Listen to Moby-Dick, the audiobook. Find the elusive white grape slushee. Join the yearbook committee.

As each task brings Leon one step away from slacker city and one step closer to Anna, he starts to wonder if maybe he shouldn’t have promised Stan his soul after all…

The details:

Characters: Leon is smart but unmotivated. He’s about ready to graduate high school, or at least hopes to graduate high school, assuming he can get all of his detention done in time. He figures he’ll just continue to work his totally undemanding job at the ice cream shop, where he spends most of his time eating free candy and shooting the shit with his weirdo friends. Leon is a FANTASTIC character. He’s complicated in all the best ways. He’s funny (he claims to be wide deliverer on the school crotch-kicking team), crude (when in doubt, talk about poop), a little lost (try to live up to his alleged potential or stay a slacker?), and pretty anxious. Stan, his best friend who claims to be Satan, is fairly innocuous, as far as devils go. He throws some wild-ish parties, claims to be the mastermind behind some big plans (“the halls will flow with the blood of the unbeliever”), and generally seems to enjoy some minor rabble-rousing and a little debauchery–no more, really, than your average teen. Paige, Leon’s eventual girlfriend, is the kind of girl I hated in high school–a girl who would date a boy who seemed waaaaay more interesting than she was, and then I’d wonder what the hell the attraction was. You know who else was kinda awesome? Leon’s parents. They’re not too involved in his life, and they don’t show up a ton, but I loved them. They are WEIRD. They call themselves “food disaster hobbyists,” which means they find vintage cookbooks and create recipes that are generally disgusting looking/sounding/tasting. They dress up, they get in character, they have fun with this completely weird hobby. Going to remember that instead of referring to myself as a bad cook, I’m going to call myself a “food disaster hobbyist.” Way cooler.


Writing: Immensely readable. Writing is immensely readable? Why yes, I have been reviewing books professionally for ten years—how can you tell? But you know what I mean–it’s well-written in that nice unobtrusive way. The writing doesn’t draw real attention to itself—it just tells a great story. It’s a great mix of humorous and introspective, too.


Plot: Pieces of the plot: Find the elusive great white grape slushee. Listen to all of Moby Dick. Decide if it’s worth changing your slacker ways. Figure out a way to have sex without the performance anxiety killing you. Good stuff, right? The plot is basically figuring out what it means to be floundering at the end of high school.   


Ending: A happy ending that doesn’t rely on everything being tidy or any kind of “happily ever after” idea. Felt right for the story, and felt real.


Liked: SO MUCH. I read this on my ereader and kept marking places that I wanted to go back to and think about. You know what I really liked in here? The sex stuff. I know—you’re shocked. Here’s why: Leon is self-conscious. He’s awkward. He has major performance anxiety issues. Before Paige, Leon has had sex with two girls, Brenda and Mindy.  Leon has sex with Brenda after a few weeks of making out. “For one thing, it took me forever to get hard,” he says. The experience is pretty cringe-worthy. They’re in a dirty basement room, Brenda is exasperated by Leon, and everything about the experience is awkward. It’s pretty awful. But you know what? THANK YOU ADAM SELZER FOR WRITING THIS AWKWARD SEX SCENE. We don’t see enough of that. We also don’t see enough depictions of boys angsting over sex. Girl #2, Mindy, likes to constantly remind Leon that he doesn’t exactly measure up, anatomically speaking, to her ex-boyfriend. “You’d probably be fine for most girls. I just kind of got spoiled by Darren,” she says. OUCH. He’s embarrassed. He talks about not being good at it and feeling like shit. And when he gets together with Paige, they have lots of semi-clothed sex (eventually—he’s hesitant and nervous), most of it in his car tucked away in what appears to be an alcove for a dumpster behind a store. I could go on forever.


Disliked: Well, S(a)tan was a little insufferable, but I suppose he would be.


BONUS!: Did I mention there’s awkward and realistic teenage sex?!


In summary: 

Verdict: If it’s not obvious, I liked this book a whole lot. I went into it thinking the main character would be S(a)tan, or maybe most of the story would revolve around his doings. Maybe the kids listened to death metal (and they do). Maybe they had some hijinks (they do). I didn’t expect to find such a wonderfully neurotic oddball slouching toward graduation. Read this, okay? I need someone to talk with about it. Read it! Order it for your library! Wide appeal—this one will be easy to move off the shelves.



“Maybe falling in love is just about finding someone who is willing to put up with most of your shit if you put up with most of theirs.”


After Paige says surely Leon has told his friends that they’re having sex, and he says he has not. “Guys sound like douche bags when we talk about sex. ” “Yeah,” said Stan. “Girls sound liberated, guys sound like douche bags. That’s just the way it is.”


“If I ever stop laughing when people say ‘balls,’ I’ll know my heart is dead.”



Author’s website

Author’s Twitter


I spent most of the time reading this also humming the excellent song by the Mountain Goats “The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton.” I was pleased when I got to a part in the book that references it!

Waiting on Wednesday: The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters


Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking The Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.



The title I’m anxiously awaiting is The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters.


Summary from bn.com: curefor

Olivia Mead is a headstrong, independent girl—a suffragist—in an age that prefers its girls to be docile. It’s 1900 in Oregon, and Olivia’s father, concerned that she’s headed for trouble, convinces a stage mesmerist to try to hypnotize the rebellion out of her. But the hypnotist, an intriguing young man named Henri Reverie, gives her a terrible gift instead: she’s able to see people’s true natures, manifesting as visions of darkness and goodness, while also unable to speak her true thoughts out loud. These supernatural challenges only make Olivia more determined to speak her mind, and so she’s drawn into a dangerous relationship with the hypnotist and his mysterious motives, all while secretly fighting for the rights of women. Winters breathes new life into history once again with an atmospheric, vividly real story, including archival photos and art from the period throughout.

Publisher: Amulet Books

Publication date: 10/14/2014


Why I’m excited for it: 

I thought her debut novel, In the Shadow of Blackbirds was absolutely brilliant.


Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Book Characters That Would Be Sitting At My Lunch Table

toptentuesdayIt’s time for Top Ten Tuesday! Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. 

This week’s topic:  Top Ten Book Characters That Would Be Sitting At My Lunch Table. Perfect for the first day back to school here in Minnesota! Let’s see what kind of motley crew I can assemble here, okay?

1. Marcus Flutie (Jessica Darling series by Megan McCafferty): Let’s just get him on this list and out of the way first, shall we? Because teenage me would probably have been desperately in love with Marcus Flutie, were he not fictional. Sure, I would’ve been turned off by his drug use and the endless rotation of girls he’s sleeping with, but then he’d talk, and be challenging and smart and weird, and I’d love him. I’d crush on him because of his collection of tshirts, his weird phases, his status of mysterious loner. He’d be at my table, but I’d probably be sitting way down on the other end, trying to work up the courage to verbally spar with him. Sigh.


2. Hassan Harbish (An Abundance of Katherines by John Green): Because he’s smart and hilarious. And really, there’s nothing in life I like better than people who are good at witty banter and who can make me laugh.


3. Andrea Marr (Girl by Blake Nelson): 90s girl. Grunge. Thift stores. Boys in bands. What more do I need to say–she’s my kind of girl.


4. Gabe Williams (Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills): Gabe’s only in high school but has a radio show on the college station, called Beautiful Music for Ugly Children. Given that in real life I listened to this show as a teenager, it’s only natural I’d want to be at Gabe’s table.


5. Frankie Landau-Banks (The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart): A sharp-tongued feminist who’s also possibly a criminal mastermind? Color me obsessed.


6. Hava Aaronson (Never Mind the Goldbergs by Matthue Roth): One of my favorite characters from a book that hardly anyone I know has ever heard of, much less read. Hava is an Orthodox Jew and a punk. She’s sassy and outspoken, angst-ridden and flawed. She searches for her identity while listening to some fantastic bands. I think we’d be friends.


7. Allie (The Vinyl Princess by Yvonne Prinz): Allie works at a record store, writes a zine, and has a blog. Do you see a running theme here for the friends I’m picking? If you knew the purple haired, pierced, zine-writing, music obsessed teen me in the 90s, you’re not surprised by this table, are you?


8. Emily Black (I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone byStephanie Kuehnert): Guitar player in a punk band, so we’d probably be friends, but I’d also find her insufferable. I maybe wouldn’t even really like her very much, but she’d provide lots of drama, which would keep things interesting. Also, we’d probably fight about music. Like the book itself, I’d think she looked cooler than she was.


9. Marisol Guzman (Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger): If you know me, or have read this blog with any sort of regularity, you might know that I have a special connection to this book. Marisol and I could scribble things for our zines over in a corner and make sarcastic comments about everything. Marisol describes herself as a “Puerto-Rican Cuban Yankee Cambridge, Massachusetts, rich spoiled lesbian private-school gifted-and-talented writer virgin looking for love.” I adore her (but I might be a little biased). 


10. Norah Silverberg (Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan): Guess what? Another character who is really into music! I know! Norah is cynical and complicated. She likes swearing. She’s kind of aggressive and brilliant. I’m pretty sure she’s too cool to hang out with me–but maybe I’d find out that she tries really hard to be that cool.








Weekly roundup of YA, children’s lit, and other book-related links

*Over at the Carolrhoda blog, Andrew Karre is talking about “The Sex.”  I’d like to paste the whole post here, but I’ll just give you this for now:

“I’m beginning to think of sex in YA this way: the processes of discovering

  • the facts of any given sex act,
  • the desire to have it,
  • and then of the opportunity to have it

are not necessarily erotic or symbolic or easily recalled by an adult, but they are none the less distinct, absolutely fascinating, and true to the experience of being a teenager. And isn’t that the whole point of the genre?”


*Carrie Mesrobian has a companion post to Karre’s, “What We’d Like to See in Young Adult Fiction by Actual Young Adults.”  From Carrie’s post:
“…[M]y experience with teaching teenagers has been that their candor and comfort with talking about complex topics is always high. They just need to be given the space and time to talk.

This message should knock on the ears of editors and booksellers and librarians, too. What you might not be able to verbalize as a grown adult, teenagers have zero problem with talking about to ANYONE. The world is changing with respect to sexual mores and attitudes. Our books going forward should reflect this.”


*At Book Riot, “Making the Jump from Lit to Comics: Where to Start.” 


*At Teen Librarian Toolbox, “This is What Happened When I Asked Twitter to Recommend MG & YA Lit Titles for Those Asking about Ferguson.” 


*More on Ferguson: At Stacked, “Ferguson, Race, Civil Rights, Social Activism, and YA Fiction: A Round-up of Reading.” 


*At SLJ, Betsy Bird at Fuse #8 is talking “Books to Film–Coming Soon so be Prepared!”


*At Stacked, Kelly Jensen’s piece “Female Sexuality in YA Fiction: A Look at the Landscape” is EXCELLENT. She says:

The depictions of sexuality in YA matter because these are safe spaces for readers — teen readers, especially — can think about, explore, and consider what it means to be a sexual being. We don’t talk openly or honestly about sex as a culture, and we certainly don’t talk about it in positive, affirming, and empowering ways with teenagers.”


*Another great post at Stacked: “Suicide and Depression in YA: A Discussion and Book List.” 


*At The Huffington Post, “9 YA Couples Who Definitely Need to Break Up” by Christa Desir.