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

*At Forever Young Adult, “A Highly Scientific Analysis of ANNA vs LOLA.” If you don’t immediately understand that reference, you’d better get those titles on your TBR. Two of my favorite books in the past few years.

*At SLJ, “Star YA Authors Reveal Inspirations and Challenges.” 

*At Book Riot, “5 of the Coolest Little Free Libraries.”

*At Tor, “A Long Overdue Nod to SciFi and Fantasy’s Best Librarians.” 

*At VOYA, Kathleen Meulen’s Electronic Eye column is “Find Time for Code!”

*At Stacked, “Censorship, Challenges, and Other Forms of Protest: A Reading List.” 

*At Kurtis Scaletta’s blog, “Homesick for Klickitat Street.” 


*The official teaser trailer for Mockingjay is here!

Review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

(Trying out a new book review format that is different than the style I generally write in for VOYA, SLJ, and Horn Book. We’ll see if it sticks.)




About the book: 
Title: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

Author: Jenny Han

Age level: YA

Genre: Realistic/Romance

Subjects: Dating, Relationships, Siblings, Sisters, Love letters, Secrets, Lies, Korean-Americans

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers

Publication date: 4/15/2014

Format read in: Hardcover

Source of book: library

Pages: 368

Series: Yes–book #1 To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series (book #2 expected publication: April 21st 2015)

Cover: I absolutely judge books by their covers, and this one has “pick me up” beaming off of it. Eye-catching and a POC fully on the cover? Gimme!

Why review this book?: Jenny Han!


Overview (from bn.com): 

Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control in this heartfelt novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Summer I Turned Pretty series.

What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them…all at once?

Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.


The details:

Characters: Pretty believable teenagers who take on more responsibility than they should have to (Margot), are awkward (Lara Jean, who feels much younger than she is), and don’t really know what their hearts want (Peter, Josh… okay, all of them). Not sure what Margot and Lara Jean saw in Josh, other than he’s the boy next door who’s always around their house.
Writing: Solid–carried me through the parts where I found the characters a little bland or the plot a bit slow.
Plot: It’s all about damage control and pulling off this fake relationship with Peter–or is it?
Ending: Total cliffhanger. You’re gonna have to wait until book #2
Liked: Relationship between all three sisters, the device of the love letters (though I wanted more of it, and more fallout from them)
Disliked: Love triangle alert! Also, I know this is the start of a series, but I wanted more from all of the boys, not just Peter and Josh with brief appearances from others.

BONUS!: Korean-American characters (yay, diversity!) and some real laugh-out-loud scenes.

In summary: Quick and mostly satisfying, though maybe would work better as a standalone book that include more details about the boys in the letters and wrapped it all up.
Verdict: Well-written peek into the lives of believable and flawed teens. Read it if you like day-to-day teen drama that falls on the youngish end of the spectrum.


“If love is like a possession, maybe my letter are like my exorcisms.” 

“It’s funny how much of your childhood is about proximity.” 


Author’s website

Author’s Twitter

What do you do if you don’t want to read?

I know–you probably think I’m joking. I always want to read, right? You probably always want to read. I’ve read 90 books so far this year–you don’t get through 90 books in 7 months if you frequently feel like not reading. And I don’t frequently feel that way. But when I do, it’s like this weird personality crisis, especially if it lasts for more than a day or two. And I don’t really know what else to do with myself. I don’t watch tv–we might watch two or three episodes of Gilmore Girls a week (yes, we’re rewatching it for about the third or fourth time), but that’s it. I can’t sit through a movie–it feels like too big of a waste of my time. If I have to, I’ll also be emailing or paying bills, anything that feels more productive.

Sometimes I don’t feel like reading because what I last read was so brilliant I can’t bear to pick up something new. Sometimes everything in my current TBR looks just meh to me that day. Sometimes I DNF a book and feel my cranky hangover from a bad book will taint something new right away. And if someone else is home, there’s other people to pester. Callum will let me read him some Harry Potter (okay, okay–yes, that’s still reading. But it’s not *my 0wn* reading. Plus, I will always read to my kid, no matter how I’m feeling about anything). Maybe we’ll go outside and play Spanish Garage Door War (it’s as excellent as its name suggests). Matthew might want to play Catan. Maybe we can walk to the ice cream shop. But if I’m home alone and don’t feel like reading, I’m aimless.

So what do you do when you feel like you’re in a reading rut? Or when you decide you just don’t want to read anything at the moment? Because despite my all-consuming love of books, some days I just am not feeling it. 

Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

we were liarsWe Were Liars by E. Lockhart

This book has the happiest ending of any book I’ve ever read. 

(Okay–that’s a lie. But the flap copy instructs that if asked how it ends, the reader should lie.)

Cady’s wealthy family reunites every summer on their private island, where she spends most of her time with her cousins Johnny and Mirren and with Gat, the boy she has always loved (a group Cady refers to as the Liars).

Fast forward two years later to when something has happened to Cady. Something has happened, and we don’t really know what, and Cady doesn’t even really know what. She can’t remember, and no one is willing to talk about what happened that summer. So while she feels broken, headachy, and just not herself, at least she is back on the island for the summer with her gang of Liars. The story jumps around in time, revealing bits of their summers together, snapshots of what their lives are like. Cady is not really reliable–she has amnesia, after all–and the answers to what happened are very slow to come. Together, the little group tries to overcome family drama and rivalries, eventually pretty much cutting themselves off entirely from the rest of the family on the island.

This is the kind of book where it’s really best for a review to say almost nothing at all. If you haven’t already had plot spoiled for you, don’t go reading any reviews. Just read the book. It was beautiful and painful in all the best ways. I wish I had known nothing about this book going in–because even though I had avoided any real spoilers, just to know you’re looking for something sometimes makes things reveal themselves faster than they would if you were truly going into a read with no expectations at all. Were there things I found insufferable about it? Sure. Do I think it’s Lockhart’s best work? No. I’m a huge fan of all of her books, and while this is a very smart, very well-crafted book, it doesn’t stand up to my appreciation of The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks or the Ruby Oliver quartet.  That said, it’s absolutely worth reading, particularly if you enjoy unreliable narrators and non-linear stories.

E. Lockhart’s website

E. Lockhart’s Twitter


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

*From The Guardian, “Judy Blume: ‘I thought, this is America, we don’t ban books. But then we did.’”  From the article:

“When I started, in the 70s, it was a good time for children’s book writers. Children’s reading was much freer than in the 80s, when censorship started; when we elected Ronald Reagan and the conservatives decided that they would decide not just what their children would read but what all children would read, it went crazy. My feeling in the beginning was wait, this is America: we don’t have censorship, we have, you know, freedom to read, freedom to write, freedom of the press, we don’t do this, we don’t ban books. But then they did.”

Blume’s theory is that children read over what they aren’t yet ready to understand. Sometimes, she says, “kids will actually go to Mom or Dad and say ‘What does this mean?’, which is the perfect time to talk to them about it. But that’s when sometimes parents get hysterical. Really. It’s like, ‘Argh, I don’t want to talk to you about this, let’s get rid of this book, I don’t ever want to talk to you about this, I don’t ever want you to go through puberty.’”

*Justine Larbalestier has a guest post on her blog from @bysshefields, “YA From a Marginalized Young Adult’s Perspective.”  It’s all great stuff, but I love one of her ending lines:  “Stop telling us what we need and ask us instead.”

*I got a good laugh out of Carolyn Parkhurst’s “Eloise: An Update” in The New Yorker. Eloise at forty-six? Yes, please!

*At Bustle, “Lois Lowry’s Anastasia Krupnik is still wonderful today and here are 7 reasons why.”  Anastasia is one of my all-time favorite literary characters. On my first day working at The Children’s Book Shop, Lois Lowry called to talk to the manager about something. I answered, asked who was calling before transferring the call, and then nearly had a heart attack.

*At Salon, “I’m sorry for coining the phrase Manic Pixie Dream Girl,” by Nathan Rabin. From it:

As is often the case in conversations about gender, or race, or class, or sexuality, things get cloudy and murky really quickly. I coined the phrase to call out cultural sexism and to make it harder for male writers to posit reductive, condescending male fantasies of ideal women as realistic characters. But I looked on queasily as the phrase was increasingly accused of being sexist itself.”

*At Book Riot, Kelly Jensen has a great piece called “Libraries Are Not a ‘Netflix’ for Books.” This is another one I’d like to just quote in whole here, but I’ll just pull out this bit:

“When the library is made to be seen as a business, rather than the heart of a community or a fundamental service made possible through citizen-approved tax dollars, it makes the library expendable. That expendability then moves down the chain: staff salaries get cut, then staff withers, then more programs and projects that benefit the community — books and movies and CDs and magazines and newspapers and wifi and computer access and database subscriptions and programs for all shapes, colors, and sizes of people — disappear, too. It detracts from the unique aspects that make a library what it is: a place for all, rather than a place for some.

Libraries reach out where Netflix reaches in.”

*At Flavorwire, “Should it Matter Whether ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ is Young Adult Fiction?” 

*Food for thought at 100 Scope Notes: “All Middle Grade Novels Should be 192 Pages. No Exceptions.”  Fabulous conversation happening in the comments.

Books as trophies

signed booksAs you will be hearing me talk about obsessively, we’re moving to California.

We’ve somehow been back in Minnesota for almost nine years. NINE YEARS! We left Boston in late 2005 and I don’t think we ever planned to stay nearly this long here. But we had a baby, and our families are here, and lots of upsettingly huge life events kept happening, and moving felt impossible.

But now it’s happening, and we’re starting to sort, organize, and donate things in preparation of our move. Yes, it’s months off, but if you know me even the teenist bit, you know I’m a completely hyperorganized type-A freak. My neighbor jokingly asked if I was starting to pack the day we made our decision to move, and I wasn’t. But by the next day, I was. The category of stuff I’ve spent most of  my time dealing with has been BOOKS. I know, you’re shocked. 

Matthew and I met working at Barnes & Noble the year before I went to Simmons for graduate school. He spent 15 years with the company (we moved to St. Cloud because when we came back to MN this store was in need of a manager) before changing careers. My whole life has been books. So when we moved from Boston we had 40 giant boxes of books. We lined many of the downstairs walls in our new house with bookcases and there was plenty of space for the books.

But over the years, every time we’ve had to move them (to paint, to tear out carpet and put in new floors, etc) we donate a ton of them. And with this upcoming move, we know we won’t have nearly the space we have now. So what did we do? We donated probably 80% or more of our books. It was hard at first, because we both kind of view books as trophies, like “look what I read!” Why? I dunno. It’s not like people we know come over and need some kind of proof that we read that much, or that we can’t remember what we’ve read. So out the door they went–to the library, to the thrift shop, to the teens in my book club, to anyone we thought might like a certain book. If it wasn’t an absolute favorite, or a title waiting for Callum to be old enough to read, or something we were certain we’d reread, it didn’t make the cut.

So suddenly we hardly have any books (well, “hardly have any” being an amount that is still actually an awful lot of books). We emptied entire bookcases and gave them away. And I don’t think I’ll miss any of them. And now that they’re gone, I kind of can’t quite understand why it was so important to keep them and move them over and over (Duluth, Jamaica Plain, Boston, Brighton, St. Peter, St. Cloud).

How about you? Book hoarder? Giver-awayer? Insulated your entire house with a layer of books? I’m curious. 


Notes from YA book club and teen advisory board

The second Saturday of every month I’m lucky enough to run the YA book club (YA Revolution) and help facilitate the teen advisory board (League of Extraordinary Readers) through the public library. We started these groups when I was still a librarian at a local high school. A couple of great public librarians and I worked hard to get these groups off the ground, and two years later, they’re still going strong. We generally have anywhere from three to twelve teenagers show up for these meetings, which feels fairly impressive to me given that they’re coming on the weekend to a place outside of school. For many of them, transportation is an issue, and they do whatever they can to get to the meetings. It’s my favorite few hours a month.

What did we talk about this time? Here are some snippets:

*One girl was really excited about having read My Life with the Walter Boys by Ali Novak. I think she said she originally read it, or parts of it, on Wattpad.   This same girl also urged us to read Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality by Elizabeth Eulberg.  Everyone was into it just from the title alone.

*The advisory board is going to make a video about why they joined to help create some interest in starting boards at branch libraries in our system. Best quote tossed out as they brainstormed? “It’s a place where everyone can fit in.” Totally true. Our book club and board includes homeschooled teens, unschooled, kids who’ve been to the alternative school, Muslim girls, blue-haired punks, 13-year-olds, 19-year-olds, and more. The common bond? Books and a love of the library. 

*While looking over the forms they need to turn in to make this video, someone mentioned signing over parental rights, which led to a joke about becoming wards of the library. This was greeted with great excitement. They would live there if they were allowed.

*Their desperate desire to get out on the rooftop garden is coming true! The TAB will take care of weeding the garden, just one of the many small projects they volunteered to participate in at this meeting.

*Other events coming up that the TAB will participate in: Coder Dojo, SciFi Con, a haunted house installation, and August visits from some Minnesota YA authors. They’re excited about all of these things! They’re particularly interested in talking to the authors about writing.

*They spent some time talking about how they choose a book. Some fell on the side of judging a book by its cover, some were horrified at that idea. Great titles and compelling cover art were big reasons why they’d pick a book up.

*Once again, they talked about their growing distaste for dystopias. They feel weary of seemingly interchangeable worlds, love triangles, and there being nothing that feels new or different in this genre now.

It was a blast, as usual. Can’t wait to see what our next meetings hold!

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

*“Rainbow Rowell Does Romance with a Subversive (Read: Realistic) Twist,” by Neda Ulaby at NPR. From the article:

“She also challenges the idea that a wedding is the end point of a romance, or that once heroines meet their Mr. Rights everything will be A-OK from that point forward.

“That’s a fallacy because they are going to change and change and change,” she says. “And you are going to change and change and change. And it’s so much more like agreeing to change next to each other.”

And that’s where Rowell’s real sense of romantic subversion comes in.”

*“Rowling writes story about 30-plus Harry Potter.”  Via The Bookseller:

In the article, Harry, now turning 34, and accompanied by his sons James and Albus, has “threads of silver” in his black hair, and also sports a mysterious new scar over his cheekbone, which Skeeter deduces has been inflicted as part of his top-secret career as an Auror, a specialist officer trained to apprehend evil wizards. Harry is also described as having distinctive round glasses that are “better suited to a style-deficient 12-year-old”. His wife, Ginny, is reporting on the tournament, leading Rita to question whether she really has the talent for it or whether being married to Harry has opened some doors.”

*Over at Forever YA, “YA Movie News Roundup: Emma Watson’s in a New YA Adaptation.” 

*Check out this great interview with Annie Cardi over on Story and Chai.

California or bust!

iphone 091It is with great excitement that I share the news that my husband, son, and I are moving to San Francisco. We’re moving over the course of the next several months, with Matthew going out ahead of us to start work and do some research into where we might want to buy a place. We’re beyond excited for this move. We left Boston in 2005 and never intended to stay quite this long back in MN. We’ll miss our families and our friends, but won’t miss bugs, snow, and ice.


Thinking about the move has made me want to pick up some YA (or MG, or adult) books set in California or written by California authors to read (or reread). Maybe I’ll start with:

The Summer I Learned to Fly by Dana Reinhardt

The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour

Smile by Raina Telgemeier

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn

Uses for Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins


What else? Who are your favorite CA authors? What are your favorite CA novels? Come talk to me on Twitter! 



Reading in the rubble

Things have been a little crazy here. We’ve been having some remodeling done at home, which meant utter chaos. There was really no place to even set my laptop up. The noise made it impossible to string a thought together anyway. In addition to the noise, mess, and moving everything we own to weird places (a fridge in the living room! a toilet in the bathtub!), we’ve been working hard to make a Major Life Decision. But more on that later.


I’m hoping next week things will return to normal–reading, writing, blogging. But for now, I’ll be cleaning every single thing I own. Ripping up all your flooring makes a crapload of dust.


In the past week or so, I read We Were Liars by E. Lockart, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, Shotgun Lovesongs by Nikolas Butler, and I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson. Reviews forthcoming.


Heading to the library later to pick up my holds, which include Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn, Fan Art by Sarah Tregay, and All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner.


I’ve been plugging away at my novel, too. I’m kind of stuck in an endless research loop. Just when I think I’m done researching, I learn something so interesting that it sets off a new round of research. At some point I just need to say I’M DONE, but that’s hard.


In other news, it’s July. JULY! How did that happen?