Ten Reasons Why You Should Read…No Place to Fall by Jaye Robin Brown

I was so glad to get No Place to Fall in the mail. Obviously I’m a big fan of contemporary realistic YA, and I have a special place in my heart for books about a) small town life, and b) the South. No Place to Fall had that perfect small town, Southern atmosphere that I was hoping for, and so much more. Here are a few of my reasons why you should read No Place to Fall:

1. Amber
The entire time I was reading No Place to Fall, I kept picturing Tyra Collete from Friday Night Lights. If you’re an FNL fan, you already know this means lots of feels. For those who haven’t yet experience FNL (seriously, go to Netflix now), that basically means Amber is a complicated character filled with lots of heart and lots of doubt and lots of strength and lots of sass and lots of pain and lots of awesomeness.

2. Mama and Daddy
A part of No Place to Fall that I didn’t expect based on the general blurb but ended up loving–Amber’s parents and their relationship. They’re facing their own relationship trouble and come across as very real characters. Even though it would be easy to put the blame on one party or another, they come across as real people with real problems, and I love how Amber loves both of her parents, sometimes in spite of herself. Also really want a warm hug from Mama.

3. Whitney and Sammy
Amber’s sister, Whitney, and Whitney’s boyfriend, Sammy, provide another unexpected dose of real life. Sammy’s involved in drugs, which means Whitney is, too, and trouble for Amber’s family. But even Sammy isn’t a mustache-twirling villain. He and Whitney are people who have made some bad choices, but are very real people caught in a cycle of drugs and crime in a small town.

4. Music
Music is a big part of No Place to Fall. I loved getting a sense of Amber finds escape through song, from folk tunes to country to classical to church hymns.

5. Church
Religion is a big part of lots of teens’ lives, but I don’t encounter a lot of it in YA novels. I liked seeing church and religion as a presence in Amber’s life, which felt like another real touch in a small, rural town. It was also nice to see church not as a particular plot point (aside from Amber’s musical connections there), but as part of her life.

6. Romance (and more)
A classic recipe for romance: one guy + one girl + music = romance. No Place to Fall has lots of that, plus some real-life heat for Amber. I like that she lets herself be physical, and that the book never shames her for it, even when she makes some less than wise choices. Again, another detail that made her feel like a real teen.

7. Small towns
No Place to Fall feels like the kind of book that needs to be set in a small town. Amber is very aware of what people think of her, of her family, and how deeply she’s tied to the place she lives–both in bad and good ways. One thing that made No Place to Fall stand apart was that aspect of bad and good. Small town life isn’t just something to run away from here. Amber may have bigger things in front of her, but she can’t deny her home.

8. Friends
Amber’s world is also populated by a circle of friends, including best friend Devon, who’s dealing with being a gay teen in a small town, and the other two Ambers in her high school, one of whom is a popular, pretty cheerleader and actually nice! (So glad not to see mean girl cheerleader stereotypes.) It feels like Amber has a wide circle of people she cares about, which felt like a real teen’s friendships. Not everyone has just one best friend!

9. Southern living
No Place to Fall also feels very routed in the South. Amber lives along the Appalachian Trail, where she meets hikers and feels music in the mountains. She’s a character who’s very much a part of where she lives and, although part of that is about small town life (as mentioned above), I don’t think Amber would be the same girl living in a small town in Vermont or Minnesota.

10. Jaye Robin Brown
Jaye is a fellow OneFour Kidlit author and all-around delightful person. In addition to writing YA novels with a lot of feels, she’s also an art teacher, which means that if you follow her on Twitter or Instagram, you get lots of pictures of cool artwork.

No Place to Fall is available on December 9th, so put it on your pre-order list now!

Links Galore

A few good links:

Ten Reasons Why You Should Read…The Fire Wish by Amber Lough

I’m a sucker for YA novels that are inspired by fairy tales or folklore or mythology. Give me an old tale with a new twist and I’m there. And tales that deviate from the standard Disney princess category? Even cooler. The Fire Wish by Amber Lough involves a world of jinni and princesses and mistaken identity and it is awesome! Here are a few of my reasons why you should read The Fire Wish.

1. Najwa
Najwa’s a jinn training to be a spy–basically all worlds that are already awesome. But I also love how Najwa is sensitive and thoughtful, even when she swaps bodies with a human and has to conceal her identity to protect herself, the jinni universe, and the humans around her.

2. Zayele
In a novel with two points of view, you’d think it would be easy to forget which narrator is which. But as much as I loved Najwa, I also loved reading Zayele’s chapters. Even though she’s the human side of the story, Zayele is bold and fierce and strong, and has a deep love for her family. She makes mistakes and acts desperately at times, but her flaws round her out nicely as a character.

3. Rahela
And speaking of Zayele’s family, Rahela was a character I didn’t expect much from but I ended up loving her, too! She joins Zayele on her journey to the palace in Baghdad, and becomes a source of comfort and friendship for Najwa. Friend characters in YA without any personality irk me, and it was so refreshing to see Rahela come to life as her own character, with her own quiet strength.

4. I wish…
When you think ‘jinni,’ you probably think wishes, right? I love how Amber weaved in the classic combination of jinni and wishes into a source of mythic power and magic for this different race of people. (I love their origin story!)

5. Romance
I like my folktale adaptations with a healthy dose of romance, and The Fire Wish delivers with not one, but two adorable love interests. Swoons, guys.

6. Family
Okay, so I like complicated family situations in novels. But it was so heartwarming/heartbreaking to read about Zayele’s devotion to and guilt for her younger brother, Yashar. Also loved seeing both Zayele and Najwa’s complicated relationships with their respective parents, and what kind of expectations are placed on them as daughters. Even though there’s so much awesomeness from magic and worldbuilding here, it’s so nice to see the grounding of things like family and all that implies.

7. Cultures and history
While I love fairy tale retellings, many of them are based on European stories. It’s so refreshing to see a novel based on Middle Eastern mythology. Beyond that, Amber weaves in cultural history and social norms for characters like Zayele–she wears a hijab, prays to Allah, and generally feels like a Middle Eastern girl growing up near Baghdad centuries ago. Similarly, also cool to see a handsome prince character who isn’t white. These kinds of things matter to teen readers who don’t usually get to see characters like themselves in novels, much less exciting novels about magic and spies.

8. Page-turning
And speaking of exciting novels, this is one I couldn’t put down–danger at every turn, mistaken identity, war brewing, villains plotting, new love threatened!

9. Writing
In a novel with magic and spies and war, you’d think the writing would be adequate at best. Not so! Amber’s writing is so well crafted and lovely and connects so well with all her characters without losing any of that aforementioned action and excitement. (Seriously, Amber, are you a jinn?) I kept reading and thinking, “Oh, man, what a perfect way to put that.”

10. Amber Lough, Made of Awesome
Amber Lough is a fellow Fourteenery member, and I’m constantly in awe of her intelligence and kindness and talent and strength. She’s a master of languages, has served in the military, and writes awesome books. Keep an eye on her, folks.

The Fire Wish is now available, so go check it out at your local bookstore!

Links Galore

Lots of links for your perusal:

Friends, Enemies, Adventures, and More: the Boston Teen Author Festival Is Tomorrow!

The 3rd annual Boston Teen Author Festival is tomorrow! Make sure to come by the Cambridge Public Library tomorrow for lots of writing/reading/YA goodness. I’ll be there along with over twenty other YA authors, talking about writing for teens and lots of different craft points. The general schedule:

Writing Workshop: 9:45-10:30
Doors Open: 10:45
Introduction: 11:15 
Meet the Authors!: 11:30-12:15
Panel Session One: 12:30 -1:15
Lunch Break: 1:15-2:00 (Lunch isn’t provided but you’re in Cambridge which means lots of tasty lunch spots around)
Panel Session Two: 2:00-2:45
Signing: 3:00-4:00

What better way to spend your Saturday than getting to share in a day of YA awesomeness? Hope to see you there!

Links Galore

So many links!