Friday Fifteen

Happy Friday, guys! It’s been a week of ups and downs, but I’m trying to keep the good stuff in mind–like flower-y raincoats and good friends and long walks and pups and, of course, books. Let’s head into the weekend with a few book reviews in fifteen words or fewer.

The Light Fantastic by Sarah Combs
Aka “Writing So Beautiful It Makes Annie Cry in Panera.” Combs = contemp YA feels.

The Shepherd’s Crown by Terry Pratchett
A lovely send-off to Tiffany Aching books. Terry Pratchett, I wish I’d known you sooner.

Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall
A touching novel in verse about family and art and grief and home.

Friday Fifteen

I sat down today to get some major work done, and ended up completely distracted by the SCOTUS ruling in favor of marriage equality. I’m so happy for friends, family members, and other couples and families whose lives are directly affected by this change. Your relationships have always been valid, and I’m glad they’re now supported legally.

So instead of the regular Friday Fifteen, I’m harkening back to the micro-review days of yore. Here are a few of my favorite LGBTQ (mostly) YA novels, reviewed in fifteen words or under:

Far From You by Tess Sharpe
The sleuth-smarts of Veronica Mars meets the self-destructiveness of House, centered around a heartbreaking relationship.

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley
Dual perspectives about two girls on opposite sides of desegregation left me shaking with emotion.

Ask the Passengers by A.S. King
King blends philosophy and magical realism and sexuality and family life together beautifully.

Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You by Peter Cameron
A coming out story that’s sharp, funny, sad, and surprising in turns.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
A hard one to read in many ways, but Cameron’s story is poignant and hopeful.

Baby Be-Bop by Francesca Lia Block
Touching story of coming out, from one of Block’s classic characters.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Surprisingly gentle story of friendship, identity, and coming out, and I loved the parental presence.

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
Heartbreaking look at family life and gay relationships in the 1980s, via bereft teen June.

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
Lola’s family life, particular her dads, were my favorite part of the story; so genuine.

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
Told in dual perspectives, Noah’s narration is so sweet and sad.

Happy Friday, everyone!

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?

Listening to Your Characters, Shaved Heads, and Hamster Divination: the 2014 Boston Teen Author Festival

The raffle table, filled with bookish goodness.

The raffle table, filled with bookish goodness.

Saturday was the Boston Teen Author Festival and it was a huge success! I’m so glad I got to be part of this event. The BTAF staff did such a wonderful job bringing everything together, running thoughtful and fun panels, and sharing enthusiasm about YA. Also major thanks to the Cambridge Public Library staff and the team from Porter Square Books for their hard work at the event and bringing books to so many readers. A few highlights from the day:

  • Getting to hear my fellow authors’ most useless talents, including reciting all the states in alphabetical order, making some seriously weird faces, and telling the future via hamsters.
  • Hearing about how MT Anderson worked in the image of a shaved male head into his novel at the last minute.
  • Learning about how authors use their current concerns about technology and the future to create chilling and emotionally grounded sci-fi worlds.
  • Being on a panel with amazing authors Francisco X. Stork, Emily Franklin, Stewart Lewis,  Huntley Fitzpatrick, and Erin Dionne.
  • Talking with aforementioned amazing authors about how essential it is to create a complete web of relationships for your main character, not just romantic ones.
  • Emily Franklin saying that she knows she’s really getting into a story when she starts telling people, “So it turns out…” Love that phrase for the moment of discovery!
  • Signing books for awesome readers (seriously never gets old).
  • My mom befriending half the authors and attendees.
  • A mug full of chocolate minis from the BTAF staff, aka everything I love in one place.
  • Getting to see and talk to so many wonderful teen readers. You guys warm my heart!
Buttons and mugs, my favorite forms of swag.

Buttons and mugs, my favorite forms of swag.

Thank you again to everyone who made this event possible, and to everyone who came out and spent the day with us at the Cambridge Public Library.

Is it time for the 2015 Boston Teen Author Festival yet?

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!

Upcoming Events: Buttonwood Books and the Boston Teen Author Festival!

A couple of new and excellent events to add to the calendar!

On Wednesday, August 13 at 7pm, I’ll be at Buttonwood Books in Cohasset, MA with fellow 2014 debut YA author (and all around delightful person) Skylar Dorset. We’ll be BrOEEmsCAAAGCN2talking about writing, being debut authors, how awesome YA is, and more.

And then on September 27, I’ll be part of the 2014 Boston Teen Author Festival at the Cambridge Public Library. Other authors on this year’s schedule include local favorites like A.C. Gaughen, Sashi Kaufman, Diana Renn, and Erin Dionne; and I might just fangirl myself into a frenzy over fellow Candlewick author M.T. Anderson.

Check out the Appearances and Interviews page for more info, and mark your calendars now!