Is YA Fantasy Really YA?

Within the past couple years I’ve made it a point to read more YA fantasy since I have so many avid fantasy readers in my classroom. For the past week or so I’ve been listening to the audio of Laini Taylor’s Days of Blood & Starlight (the sequel to Daughter of Smoke & Bone) since the third book in the series, Dreams of Gods & Monsters, released this week. As I’ve been listening to this book I’ve found myself questioning whether it’s truly YA.

I adore Laini Taylor’s series and her writing. My students adore it as well. What exactly about this series qualifies it as YA though? Karou’s a teenager, but is she going through any sort of specific teenage struggle? Karou’s major conflict, especially as the series progresses, is about past lives and how she fits those past lives currently. (I don’t want to spoil the series for anyone.) So is it the questioning of identity that qualifies Karou’s story as YA? The Daughter of Smoke & Bone series could easily appeal to an adult audience, especially when I consider Taylor’s lush writing style and how layered the story is. Some adults unfortunately dismiss YA because of the angst and many other reasons, but I wonder if a non-YA reading adult would realize that this series has been published as YA after having read it.

I’ve started thinking about this about many of the YA fantasies I’ve read. Besides the age of the character, what makes those books YA novels exactly? Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers and The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson are two other books that have made me question this. I don’t have a problem with these books; I think they’re fantastic. I love that my students love them. But some of the elements to these stories, like characters marrying adult men and taking on adult roles like protecting and ruling a kingdom, causes me to pause and think about this. Could these stories be marketed and published in the adult market and be as successful? Would teens still find them and love them? Would more violence and sex, like in The Game of Thrones series, push these novels into the adult market? I understand that many fantasies are set in feudalistic worlds where teen girls are getting married and teens are ruling realms/lands, but it still seems like some other young adult aspect is missing.

This series of questions crossed my mind briefly while reading Cinda Williams Chima’s The Seven Realms series, but I didn’t find myself reading  Han’s or Raisa’s characters as if they’re adults. Their voices still rang true as teenagers to me while I read their stories. While those characters are also worrying about kingdoms and arranged marriages and so on, many of their thoughts, discussions, and actions still fit those of a teenager’s.

I’d really love to get some opinions on this. Has anyone else found themselves thinking like this? I think this discussion could cross over into the dystopian genre as well. I hope we can get a discussion going through the comments!

Blog Tour: The Edge of Falling by Rebecca Serle Read Alikes

I’m happy to be part of Rebecca Serle’s blog tour for her sophomore release, The Edge of Falling. I love a good contemp and love it even more that Rebecca agreed to compile a list of read alikes for her newest book. I’m halfway through her book right now and I’m already thinking of students who will enjoy this.

The Edge of Falling by Rebecca Serle releases on March 18th and is published by Simon Pulse. I’m including the summary so you can learn a little more about it before reading  Rebecca’s list of read alikes.

The Edge of FallingSummary (From Goodreads):

Growing up in privileged, Manhattan social circles, Caggie’s life should be perfect, and it almost was until the day that her younger sister drowned when Caggie was supposed to be watching her. Stricken by grief, Caggie pulls away from her friends and family, only to have everyone misinterpret a crucial moment when she supposedly saves a fellow classmate from suicide. Now she’s famous for something she didn’t do and everyone lauds her as a hero. But inside she still blames herself for the death of her sister and continues to pull away from everything in her life, best friend and perfect boyfriend included. Then Caggie meets Astor, the new boy at school, about whom rumours are swirling and known facts are few. In Astor she finds someone who just might understand her pain, because he has an inner pain of his own. But the more Caggie pulls away from her former life to be with Astor, the more she realises that his pain might be darker, and deeper, than anything she’s ever felt. His pain might be enough to end his life…and Caggie’s as well.

List of Comps for The Edge of Falling 

So, you’ve just finished reading The Edge of Falling, and you want to know what to read next? Or maybe you want to know what books are similar to The Edge of Falling so you’ll know if it’s your type of book? No worries, I’ve got you covered! Some of these books are in a similar genre, some deal with issues like grief or hidden secrets, and some actually inspired ME to write The Edge of Falling! So let’s jump in:

  1. Speak- Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak is a beautiful book about Melinda, a girl who is alienated from her friends and suffering the burden of a huge secret. Caggie still has her voice in The Edge of Falling, but her journey is similar to Melinda’s because she is plagued by the things she can’t say out loud: her grief about the role she played in her sister’s death; the separation she feels from her family; and the one big secret that, if revealed, would cause everyone to call her a liar instead of a hero. I highly recommend Speak if you’re looking for a book about family, grief, and overcoming silence.

2. Gossip Girl- Cecily Von Ziegar

Yep, you read right- the Gossip Girl books! These books (and the TV show, of course) inspired the world of The Edge of Falling. I wanted to write about the privileged elite of the Upper East Side, and their complex relationships with their finances and their feelings. Caggie comes from a privileged family as well, but sometimes instead of opening doors, privilege closes them: the doors of communication and intimacy, the doors of honesty and forgiveness. Caggie seeks these things from her family, but in their time of grief they depend more on material things than on each other. The characters in Gossip Girl go through their fair share of grieving as well, but beneath the lens of the paparazzi and the public eye, even their private suffering becomes public scandal.

3. This Song Will Save Your Life- Leila Sales

Ok, so, full disclosure: this next book was written by my BFF Leila Sales. But I am not remotely alone in thinking it is one of the best YA books not just of last year, but of all time. This Song Will Save Your Life tells the story of Elise, a girl who just wants to have friends, and feel loved, but who is bullied mercilessly in her school. After she self-harms and ends up in the hospital, Elise feels more trapped than ever: but now by uber-watchful parents who don’t trust her. Everything changes the night she discovers  START, an underground disco club, and ends up in the DJ booth. Elise finds her place making people dance—and meets a pretty cute boy along the way. Caggie and Elise come from two very different worlds, but they both discover that loving yourself gives all other kinds of love meaning. Plus Leila and I wrote This Song Will Save Your Life and The Edge of Falling sitting across from each other—true story!

4. We Were Liars-E Lockhart

Okay, I confess: this book hasn’t even come out yet. But I read it and loved it, so I’m putting it on my list! We Were Liars is the story of a girl who comes from a prestigious, wealthy family (like Caggie’s) and the life-changing events that happen to her on the private island where her family spends every summer. It’s a literary, dark, poetic book about first love, the bonds of family, and the fragility of secrets. I was told to lie about the ending, so…I will just keep quiet J

5. The Catcher in The Rye- JD Salinger

I’m closing out my list with this classic novel, because not only is Caggie descended from the Caulfield family, which JD Salinger famously fictionalized, but because Holden and Caggie have more in common than their last name. Holden’s journey in The Catcher in the Rye is a coming-of-age story: he is disillusioned by wealth, jaded by the inconsistent and seemingly false bonds of family, and feels uncomfortable in his own skin. He, like Caggie, lost a sibling, and spends time reflecting on the cruelty of his world changing and progressing so much over time, while his lost loved one never will.  The Catcher in the Rye is one of the books that inspired me to write The Edge of Falling and I would definitely recommend you read it, if not re-visit it after you read Edge.

Rebecca Serle has a fantastic blog tour set up (with some of my favorite blogs!), so make sure to check out these upcoming posts to learn more about Rebecca, The Edge of Falling, and much more!

March 11- Fangirlish
March 17- Forever YA
March 20- Cuddlebuggery

Abandon It or Stick With It?

I’m out of sorts as of late. My mind is going in all different directions and I can’t focus. Consequently, I continue to pick up new books and none of them are holding my interest. I’m starting to think it’s me, not the books. So I need your help.These two books have A LOT of hype around them (from bloggers, friends, pubs, etc.). But I can’t get into them.

Quite a few of my friends have raved about The Living by Matt de la Pena, but I’m 85 pages in and I’m not really interested. I have SO MANY books to read and I want this to grab me and keep holding on. I want to be excited about The Living so I can rave about in my classroom. And this is completely nit-picky, but I hate the name Shy. I keep reading it as “she” and then I get confused. Have any of you struggled with this book? If you loved it, how much longer do you think I should keep reading before giving up? Is it worth the time?

Another book that has been receiving rave reviews from my friends, bloggers, and especially the publisher is These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner. I was incredibly excited to receive an ARC at NCTE because I love the cover and it sounds fantastic. Unfortunately, I wasn’t grabbed at all when I started reading These Broken Stars. I usually like it when the author(s) throws the reader right into the story, but this one confused me more than anything. Also, this is probably way too nit-picky but the font is much smaller than I prefer and quite a bit of text is condensed on the page. I only just made it to Lilac’s point of view for the first time so I feel like I haven’t given this a fair shot. But at the same time, I’m 18 pages in and questioning whether I want to continue.

What do you think, readers? I’d love for you to chime in and give me some advice!

What Should I Read Next?

I need your help. I’m currently suffering from Too Many Books to Choose From syndrome. I’m currently reading and about to finish Falling for You by Lisa Schroeder. I started Reality Boy by A.S. King and stopped mid-way so I could read a few NetGalley books before they archived. I’m probably going to finish that next, but I’m wondering what I should read after that. I’m including a few of the books I’m considering, so I’d love to know which book you think I should pick up next!

Smoke

Smoke by Ellen Hopkins

**Beware of spoilers in the summary!**

Summary (From Goodreads): Pattyn Von Stratten’s father is dead, and Pattyn is on the run. After far too many years of abuse at the hands of her father, and after the tragic loss of her beloved Ethan and their unborn child, Pattyn is desperate for peace. Only her sister Jackie knows what happened that night, but she is stuck at home with their mother, who clings to normalcy by allowing the truth to be covered up by their domineering community leaders. Her father might be finally gone, but without Pattyn, Jackie is desperately isolated. Alone and in disguise, Pattyn starts a new life, but is it even possible to rebuild a life when everything you’ve known has burned to ash and lies seem far safer than the truth?

I went to Ellen’s signing for this in Ann Arbor this week. I’ve been hoping/waiting for a sequel to Burned for years now. One of my seniors just read Burned and made sure I knew that he gets to read Smoke after I finish it.

How to Love

How to Love by Katie Cotugno

Summary (From Goodreads): Before: Reena Montero has loved Sawyer LeGrande for as long as she can remember: as natural as breathing, as endless as time. But he’s never seemed to notice that Reena even exists…until one day, impossibly, he does. Reena and Sawyer fall in messy, complicated love. But then Sawyer disappears from their humid Florida town without a word, leaving a devastated—and pregnant—Reena behind.

After: Almost three years have passed, and there’s a new love in Reena’s life: her daughter, Hannah. Reena’s gotten used to being without Sawyer, and she’s finally getting the hang of this strange, unexpected life. But just as swiftly and suddenly as he disappeared, Sawyer turns up again. Reena doesn’t want anything to do with him, though she’d be lying if she said Sawyer’s being back wasn’t stirring something in her. After everything that’s happened, can Reena really let herself love Sawyer LeGrande again?

In this breathtaking debut, Katie Cotugno weaves together the story of one couple falling in love—twice.

This is an Edelweiss title I have on my Kindle so I feel obligated to read it soon, although I really do want to read it (not just because I requested it and need to write a review).

The Space Between Us

The Space Between Us by Jessica Martinez

Summary (From Goodreads):

From the author of Virtuosity, a novel about two sisters and the secrets they tell, the secrets they keep—and the secret that could tear them apart.

Amelia is used to being upstaged by her charismatic younger sister, Charly. She doesn’t mind, mostly, that it always falls to her to cover for Charly’s crazy, impulsive antics. But one night, Charly’s thoughtlessness goes way too far, and she lands both sisters in serious trouble.
     Amelia’s not sure she can forgive Charly this time, and not sure she wants to . . . but forgiveness is beside the point. Because Charly is also hiding a terrible secret, and the truth just might tear them apart forever.

I loved Jessica’s debut Virtuosity so I automatically want to read this one. I finally bought a copy today when I found it at a library sale.

More Than This

More Than This by Patrick Ness

Summary (From Goodreads):

From two-time Carnegie Medal winner Patrick Ness comes an enthralling and provocative new novel chronicling the life — or perhaps afterlife — of a teen trapped in a crumbling, abandoned world.

A boy named Seth drowns, desperate and alone in his final moments, losing his life as the pounding sea claims him. But then he wakes. He is naked, thirsty, starving. But alive. How is that possible? He remembers dying, his bones breaking, his skull dashed upon the rocks. So how is he here? And where is this place? It looks like the suburban English town where he lived as a child, before an unthinkable tragedy happened and his family moved to America. But the neighborhood around his old house is overgrown, covered in dust, and completely abandoned. What’s going on? And why is it that whenever he closes his eyes, he falls prey to vivid, agonizing memories that seem more real than the world around him? Seth begins a search for answers, hoping that he might not be alone, that this might not be the hell he fears it to be, that there might be more than just this. . . .

I love Patrick Ness and this book sounds great.

Great Lakes Great Books Award Reading

During last night’s #titletalk chat on Twitter, I started talking to Heather Jensen (@hmjensen31) about books she should read for the Great Lakes Great Books Award.  She serves on the committee, which is part of the Michigan Reading Association.  During our conversation I asked how I could get involved with the committee, so she passed my information on to her chairperson.  Today I was extended an invitation to join the committee!

I’m thrilled to join the Great Lakes Great Books Award committee.  I think I’ll be focusing mostly on YA reading, but I’d also like to read more MG to help with that area as well.  The committee likes to read a wide variety of books, so I need your recommendations.  I’m looking, primarily, for YA/MG books published in 2013.  We can also read titles published in 2012.  I’d love to find some non-fiction and poetry titles since that’s a weak area for me, but of course I want to read some great fiction titles as well.

I’ve put together a Google form for you to share titles with me.

Book Trailer Thursday (113)–The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a publisher-made book trailer for a Sarah Dessen book before, so I’m a little excited to have found this one.  I’m currently reading and enjoying The Moon and More.  The trailer is a quick one, but it fits the book.  And even though we don’t really “see” Theo in the trailer, I’m happy to have a better idea of what he’s supposed to look like because I’m having a tough time imagining him for some reason.  Enjoy the trailer!  The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen released this week, so hopefully you’ll get your hands on a copy soon :)

The Moon and MoreSummary (From Goodreads):

Luke is the perfect boyfriend: handsome, kind, fun. He and Emaline have been together all through high school in Colby, the beach town where they both grew up. But now, in the summer before college, Emaline wonders if perfect is good enough.

Enter Theo, a super-ambitious outsider, a New Yorker assisting on a documentary film about a reclusive local artist. Theo’s sophisticated, exciting, and, best of all, he thinks Emaline is much too smart for Colby.

Emaline’s mostly-absentee father, too, thinks Emaline should have a bigger life, and he’s convinced that an Ivy League education is the only route to realizing her potential. Emaline is attracted to the bright future that Theo and her father promise. But she also clings to the deep roots of her loving mother, stepfather, and sisters. Can she ignore the pull of the happily familiar world of Colby?

Emaline wants the moon and more, but how can she balance where she comes from with where she’s going?

Sarah Dessen’s devoted fans will welcome this story of romance, yearning, and, finally, empowerment. It could only happen in the summer.

What a rut!

I’m not sure why, but I’m in a major blogging and reading rut, friends.  Usually when I’m at home I can’t wait to start reading and relaxing after a long day.  Or I’m looking forward to writing my next review.  But recently I haven’t been interested in doing either.

This month I’ve been wanting to read more back list titles since there are so many worth reading.  I loved Jessica Brody’s 52 Reasons to Hate My Father and my students are big fans as well, which is why I bought her older book My Life Undecided.  It’s cute, but I’m not excited to pick it up during SSR or when I get home from work.  Is it the book or is it me?  I hate to put it down because I think it’s me.

Have any of you gone through this before?  Which book(s) brought you out of your rut?  Which back list titles should I try to escape this rut?  Should I break my “challenge” and read Just One Day?  It’s sitting in a stack of books on my coffee table, and it’s staring at me.  Or maybe I should try The Lonely Hearts ClubGoing Underground sounds pretty good as well.  I just don’t know what to do!

If you’ve been in a similar situation before, I’d love some book recommendations that you think will wake me up.  Maybe even some blog ideas to spark my blogging rut as well.

I’m looking forward to your recommendations! :)

Let’s Try Again: My List of Six

I don’t remember when I tried Michelle from Galleysmith’s idea of creating a list of books to read in a certain amount of time, but I do know it helped a little bit even though I didn’t completely succeed.  I’m a list maker, but I’m horrible at setting books-to-read goals because I’m such a moody reader.  If I’m in the mood for something lovey, but I’m currently reading something suspenseful, there’s a good chance I’ll switch books.  I’m not always that way, but I know myself enough as a reader to recognize that I do this.  I’m trying Michelle’s idea again because it’s the end of the school year, I have books to read for our new curriculum, I’m starting my second to last Masters class, and I’m going to be overwhelmed.  So I figure if I create a list of books to (try t0) stick with, then maybe I’ll be less stressed and more productive.

Here’s my list of six (six because I’m not getting over my head with this):

The Forgetting Curve by Angie Smibert (Goodreads)

Out of the Pocket by Bill Konigsberg (Goodreads)

Bad Girls Don’t Die by Katie Alender (Goodreads)

Vicious Little Darlings by Katherine Easer (Goodreads)

The Exiled Queen by Cinda Williams Chima (I WILL finally finish this!) (Goodreads)

Bitterblue by Kristen Cashore (Yay!!) (Goodreads)

Alternates in case I can’t get into one of my six:

Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin (Goodreads)

A Midsummer’s Nightmare by Kody Keplinger (Goodreads)

Deadly Cool by Gemma Halliday (Goodreads)

Wrap Up: My First Dewey Read-a-Thon

Well, considering that I got a late start and decided to join the read-a-thon late, I think I did pretty well.  I think the next one takes place in October, so I’m going to keep an eye on that so I can be more prepared and hopefully read more books!  I had lofty goals for myself yesterday and didn’t read nearly as much as I wanted to.  But I’m okay with that because I still spent the day reading :)

What I Read:

  • Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler (Goodreads)–I had already read about half of this one before I started, but I did finish it which was one of my goals.  I needed to do that because on Wednesday my book club is Skyping with Sarah!  The girls are really excited and one of them volunteered to make and bring cupcakes for us to munch on after school during the Skype chat.  The book is adorable and now my favorite by Sarah Ockler.  I’ll work on a full review pretty soon.
  • The Lightning Thief: The Graphic Novel by Rick Riordan (Goodreads)–I’ve seen a couple of my guys in class read this one and the original books as well.  I haven’t read any of them, so I figured this was a good start.  It’s a cool graphic novel.  I really liked the images and how colors were used to convey the mood.  Plus, with all the action, I can why it’s so popular in my classroom.
  • Nothing Special by Geoff Herbach (Goodreads)–Have you read Stupid Fast yet?  If not, I seriously hope you do soon.  Nothing Special is the companion to Stupid Fast, and while it’s not exactly a direct sequel, I recommend reading Stupid Fast first.  I loved getting to know Felton better, but the story really focuses on us learning more about Andrew (Felton’s little brother).  I adored this book and can’t wait to write my full review.
  • Switched by Amanda Hocking (audiobook) (Goodreads)–I didn’t finish Switched yet, but I made some serious project yesterday.  I think I have only 4 hours left which I know will be done probably by Tuesday since I spend most of my listening before work while I’m getting ready and in the car to and from work.  I decided on Switched because I bought the paperback for my classroom library and it’s growing in popularity.  It’s pretty good so far and I enjoy the narrator :)

I learned a few things about myself as a reader during the read-a-thon.  I get distracted entirely too easily.  I want to peruse online, see what’s happening on Twitter, check my blog stats, etc.  It’s difficult for me to step away from the computer/iPhone.  I also have a hard time sitting still for a long period of time and not cleaning or sorting or something along those lines.  I’ll look up from my book and notice that my coffee table is dusty, or think about how I need to clean the bathroom, or about how much laundry I need to get done.  I don’t know why I’m like this, but I always have been this way.  It’s one of the reasons I’m really thankful that I discovered audiobooks because I can listen to one while I do all of this other stuff when I can’t sit still to read anymore.  Is anyone else like that?  I mean, if I’m reading a book that’s REALLY engrossing, I can ignore all of the distractions.  So for the next read-a-thon, I’m piling up books I know will be engrossing, more graphic novels, and probably some verse novels because I love them and they’re fast reads.

If you participated in the read-a-thon yesterday, how did it go?

Dewey’s April Read-a-Thon

I found out about the 24 hour read-a-thon late (of course), but I think I’m going to try it!  Right now as I write this blog post, over an hour late considering this started at 8am EST, I’m listening to an audiobook.  I’m happy I’ve discovered audiobooks because this will help me feel more accomplished while I write this post, put together today’s crock pot dinner, and clean our bathroom during one of the breaks.

Anyway, I decided that since I’m late to the party and have a large stack of books I need to finish, I’m going to work on finishing those for the read-a-thon.  I also brought home a graphic novel to read (they recommend starting with a short book), a short ARC, and some alternates.  Here’s my official list:

Books w/100 or more pages left:

  • Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler
  • The Exiled Queen by Cinda Williams Chima
  • Starters by Lissa Price (on my Kindle)
  • Vicious Little Darlings by Katherine Easer

Fresh books I want to read:

  • The Lightning Thief graphic novel
  • The Forgetting Curve by Angie Smibert (ARC)
  • Nothing Special by Geoff Herbach (ARC)
  • Or maybe others b/c it’s Saturday and I’m fickle sometimes :)

Audiobook for during cooking, cleaning, breaks (Cooking & cleaning I want to accomplish during breaks):

  • Switched by Amanda Hocking

I have no idea if I’ll accomplish this or even stay up for the full 24 hours (yeah I probably won’t).  But I like the challenge and I need to beef up my “Read in 2012″ list.  Is anyone else participating?!

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