Serial, Crimes, and Teenage Life

Like most of the podcast-listening world, I’ve been obsessed with Serial for the past couple of months. The case of Adnan Syed and Hae Min Lee is tragic and upsetting and confusing, and a real look into the unfairness of the criminal justice system. For me, it was never about finding out if Adnan really committed murder or not–it was about taking a hard look at one, particular case and the very real people involved.

One of the first things that struck me–this was a case about teenagers. As a YA writer, this raised the stakes for me. Hae was killed when she was in high school, and even though Adnan, Jay, and others involved in the case are now older, they were still teens when the events surrounding Hae’s death occurred.

So often when Serial would go into interviews or stories about Adnan and Hae and others, I would think “These are teenagers.” Teens can walk the line between being good, respectful kids in their religious homes and still have a secret boyfriend or girlfriend and smoke up with their friends. They hear all sorts of rumors and invest very deeply in their relationships and friendships and their social circles are very complicated. They can be friends with people and still find them sketchy. They make mistakes and don’t always think through their decisions. These years are already fraught with drama. Add in something like murder, and the intensity skyrockets.

I don’t pretend to know if Adnan is innocent or guilty, or what calls were made when, or who’s lying and who’s telling the truth. But I do know that a tragedy occurred for all of these people when they were teenagers, something that permanently changed the course of their lives.

I don’t know what percentage of Serial’s listeners are teens, but I feel like teens would be particularly interested in cases like Adnan’s. This, of course, got me thinking about YA novels I’d recommend for Serial fans. Some wonderful librarians shared the following links to lists of book recs for Serial fans:

Part of Serial that interested me in particular was teenage Adnan’s relationship to his conservative Muslim family, the social structure of his Islamic community in the Maryland area, and potential implicit/explicit racism in the case. These books aren’t necessarily related to crime or mystery, but I’d recommend these YA book lists featuring Muslim teens:

A few other YA books that I’d also recommend for Serial fans:

  • Fault Line by Christa Desir
  • Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens
  • And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard
  • Monster by Walter Dean Myers
  • Far From You by Tess Sharpe
  • Pointe by Brandy Colbert
  • We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Even though only a couple of these (Monster and Pointe) deal explicitly with the criminal justice system, they all involve a terrible crime, the uncertainties surrounding that crime, and the complexities of both victims and perpetrators. All of these authors do a fantastic job creating very realistic situations of crime and mystery and tragedy and injustice and strength and hope, all surrounding the teen experience. These aren’t easy books to read, but they’re necessary reading.

Any other YA books you’d recommend to fans of Serial?

The Chance You Won’t Return – Bookplates Are In!

One of my favorite things as an author is getting to sign copies of my book. It’s been awesome getting to meet and sign for readers at events, but it’s a little harder to sign copies for readers who don’t live in the general New England area.

Solution: bookplates!

photo 2I now have The Chance You Won’t Return bookplates (ie, stickers that you can put inside your book) that I can sign and send to readers across the country!

If you want a signed bookplate, check out my Contact page and let me know your contact info and if you’d like any personalization. Looking forward to sending these out!

Links Galore

Lots of good links:

Got It Covered: Favorite 2014 YA Book Covers

The other day I came across the Best Book Covers of 2014, as listed by New York Times. My reaction:

The covers themselves are fine, but as a collection of the ‘best of,’ they’re all too minimal for my taste, and seem to run toward one idea of aesthetics. So I wondered what covers would be on my ‘best of’ list for 2014. I got into a great conversation on Twitter about what YA covers of 2014 people loved, and thought I’d share a few of my picks here. Some of these I’ve read and loved and some of these I haven’t gotten the chance to read yet, but their covers are so appealing I just had to include them.

  • Bleed Like Me by Chrisa Desir
  • Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
  • Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
  • Breakfast Served Anytime by Sarah Combs
  • We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
  • Pointe by Brandy Colbert
  • Far From You by Tess Sharpe
  • Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley
  • Beware the Wild by Natalie Parker
  • The Half Life of Molly Pierce by Katrina Leno
  • Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour
  • Stitching Snow by R.C. Lewis

Some of these covers, like Bleed Like Me or The Half Life of Molly Pierce or Stitching Snow are striking just upon first look. Others, like Breakfast Served Anytime or We Were Liars or Far From You are gorgeous when you first see them, but become even more meaningful once you’ve finished the book. And some just appeal to me for my own aesthetic preferences, like Isla and the Happily Ever After and Blue Lily, Lily Blue (love those blue-green tones).

And, of course, I have a very special place in my heart for The Chance You Won’t Return‘s cover.

Chance_HJ_comp copyTotally biased, of course, but I think Candlewick did a great job with with one.

In case you need even more great YA covers, check out this list from Buzzfeed–special thanks to Liz Maguire!

I know we’re not supposed to judge books based on their covers, but what are some of your favorite YA covers of 2014?

Links Galore

Lots of links I’ve been hoarding:


Every Word Counts: What I Learned in NaNoWriMO

Regular followers may have noticed some relative blog silence around these parts, and that’s largely been due to NaNoWriMo. This was my first year fully committing to a writing 50,000 words in November as part of a new project, and I’m happy to say that I hit that 50k yesterday!


(I had no idea the winning badge included a dragon. I will do just about anything for a dragon.)

I spent a lot of time away from the blog and staring at a Word document, but I’m so happy I took part in this year’s NaNoWriMo. It ended up being a pretty worthwhile experiment. The whole “just write a first draft, who cares if it’s bad, it’s words on paper that you can edit later” approach always sounds better in my head than in actual execution. Usually, I tell myself “just write” but I end up finagling more as I go. I still ended up doing some of that during NaNo, but I pushed myself way more than I normally do on any given day. I know that my NaNo project isn’t perfect, and there’s still a lot to figure out in revision, but I’m pretty happy with where it is overall. It was nice to find that balance between “just get words on the page!” and “carefully craft all the words.”

Also, I’m someone who doesn’t generally look at word count. If you ask me how many words I typically write per day, I’d say “Oh, I don’t know. A hundred? A thousand? Some amount of words?” Usually I track my progress by scene, and at the end of the day I’ll see how many pages that ended up being. NaNo was a fun way to make me a little more competitive with myself–I’d finish a scene and think “Oh, that’s really close to X number of words, which is a nice even number. Let’s do just a little more.” Although I still don’t have any real idea of how many words equal a scene or page, looking at word count was a helpful way to push myself that little bit further on any given day.

I’m really happy to have hit that 50k, but even if I had fallen behind (because life happens!), I would have still been happy to take part in NaNo. Because even if you only end up with 50 words, maybe that’s 50 more than you would have written. Every word counts. Whether it’s November or June, and whether it’s a novel or a short story or a poem–every word you write makes you a better writer. There’s no failing and no wasted time when you’re writing. Getting any number words on a page and crafting a story bit by bit makes you stronger as a storyteller. And that’s awesome.

My NaNo WIP isn’t done yet (probably another 25k or so to go), but I’m excited to keep pushing forward. I hope you’re excited about your WIP, too. Let’s go slay more word dragons!

And speaking of dragons, I spent Thanksgiving at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and it was awesome!

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