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!

My Summer 2013 TBR List


Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

I haven’t written a Top Ten Tuesday post since April!  I’m glad it’s finally summer so I can make more time to blog and read.  Today’s Top Ten Tuesday post is all about the summer reads at the top of our list.  There are more books that I want to read this summer than I can possibly list, so I’m going to break this down into a few different categories and include more than ten books.

Backlist Titles (Released in 2012 or earlier):

Jumping Off Swings by Jo Knowles (Goodreads)–I’ve had this on to-read lists like this before, but I still haven’t read it.  There’s really no excuse, especially since it’s so popular in my classroom.

The Gray Wolf Throne & The Crimson Crown by Cinda Williams Chima (Goodreads)–I’m cheating and making two books count as one since I need to finish this series.

Fingerprints of You by Kristen-Paige Madonia (Goodreads)–I haven’t read many reviews for this one, but I remember seeing it at Barnes & Noble last summer, being drawn to the cover, and reading the first chapter in the store.  I knew I was going to like it, but I didn’t buy it (so stupid).  After that I didn’t see it at the store again.  One way or another I was chatting with Kelly @ Stacked about this title and she offered to give me her copy 🙂  I’m confident that my students and I will like this debut.

Jumping Off SwingsThe Gray Wolf ThroneThe Crimson CrownFingerprints of You

Recent Releases (Released in 2013):

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey (Goodreads): Before the release of The 5th Wave, I posted the book trailers made to advertise it.  My students were hooked; I had to create a waiting list.  I ordered a copy and when it arrived I read the first couple chapters.  I’m hooked as well.

Over You by Amy Reed (Goodreads): I have a couple of Amy Reed’s books in my classroom, but I’ve never had the chance to read them since they’re always checked out.  I’ve read the first forty pages of Over You, and even though I’m still getting used to the writing style for it, I really like the story.  I’m looking forward to finishing this over the summer.

Rules of Summer by Joanna Philbin (Goodreads): It’s summertime, so I should read a summery book, right? 🙂

The 5th WaveStyle: "Porcelain vivid"Rules of Summer

Upcoming Releases (2013 ARCs):

Wild Cards by Simone Elkeles (Goodreads): Jillian @ Heise Reads and Recommends is a wonderful friend.  She’s even more wonderful for sending me her ARC to read 🙂

Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller (Goodreads): If you know how much I LOVE Trish’s debut, Something Like Normal, then you can understand why I’m excited to read her sophomore release.

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater (Goodreads): Did I mention how wonderful Jillian is? 😉  I’ve been wanting to read this since that crazy last page of The Raven Boys.  I love it when friends share!

Wild CardsWhere the Stars Still ShineThe Dream Thieves

NetGalley Titles:

If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan (Goodreads): This August release has so many aspects to it that make it intriguing. It’s LGBT, it has Iranian characters, and so much more. I hope it’s as good as it sounds!

Living with Jackie Chan by Jo Knowles (Goodreads): Jo Knowles makes my list twice and it’s because she’s a great author!  It’s told from a guy’s point of view, it deals with teen pregnancy, and I’ve already heard awesome things about it. This releases in September.

New Money by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal (Goodreads): I loved Lorraine’s debut, Other Words for Love, so I jumped at the opportunity to read her New Adult release, New Money.

If You Could Be MineLiving with Jackie ChanNew Money

Book Trailer Thursday (88)–The Crimson Crown by Cinda Williams Chima

Cinda Williams Chima’s Seven Realms series is one of my favorite fantasies series. The setting and world building, the characters, and the conflict is perfect.  I haven’t bought my copy of The Crimson Crown, which is the final book in the series, but I will be soon because I have a few readers who are eager to read it as well.

Are you a Cinda Williams Chima fan?  Which of her series do you like best?  I love what Hyperion has done with this trailer; it’s nice to see that they took some time with it, considering the fan base this series has.

Summary (From Goodreads): A thousand years ago, two young lovers were betrayed—Alger Waterlow to his death, and Hanalea, Queen of the Fells, to a life without love.

Now, once again, the Queendom of the Fells seems likely to shatter apart. For young queen Raisa ana’Marianna, maintaining peace even within her own castle walls is nearly impossible; tension between wizards and Clan has reached a fevered pitch. With surrounding kingdoms seeking to prey on the Fells’ inner turmoil, Raisa’s best hope is to unite her people against a common enemy. But that enemy might be the person with whom she’s falling in love.

Through a complicated web of lies and unholy alliances, former streetlord Han Alister has become a member of the Wizard Council of the Fells. Navigating the cut-throat world of blue blood politics has never been more dangerous, and Han seems to inspire hostility among Clan and wizards alike. His only ally is the queen, and despite the perils involved, Han finds it impossible to ignore his feelings for Raisa. Before long, Han finds himself in possession of a secret believed to be lost to history, a discovery powerful enough to unite the people of the Fells. But will the secret die with him before he can use it?

A simple, devastating truth concealed by a thousand-year-old lie at last comes to light in this stunning conclusion to the Seven Realms series.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Can’t Wait To Read This Fall

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

Fall is one of my favorite seasons.  I start the school year feeling refreshed and energetic, I get to wear hoodies again, and the trees turn vibrant colors.  I also love getting cozy on the couch and reading a good book.  Actually I do that all year long, but don’t we all?  I’ve listed some books I’m looking forward to reading during this lovely season.  I only have eight today, so it’s not a true top ten, but that’s the best I could do for now.

Send Me a Sign by Tiffany Schmidt (Goodreads)–I’ve been reading lots of good reviews for this one.  It sounds like a tear-jerker, but I’m okay with that.

Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone (Goodreads)–Thanks to NetGalley I’ve already read this one and loved it.  I’m adding it to my list because I’m excited to buy a finished copy and share it with my students.

Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill (Goodreads)–Besides absolutely LOVING this cover, this book sounds awesome.  Is it November yet?

The Crimson Crown by Cinda Williams Chima (Goodreads)–This is one of my favorite fantasy series.  The books are really long, but they’re so much fun to read.  Can’t wait!

The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson (Goodreads)–I just read The Girl of Fire and Thorns a few weeks ago and loved it!  Thankfully I only have to wait a couple more weeks to find out what’s happened with Elisa 🙂

The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin (Goodreads)–It’s been over a year since I read The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer.  I seriously can’t wait for this book.  Michelle Hodkin left us with such a cliffhanger that I absolutely need to know what the heck is going on with Mara.

Beautiful Redemption by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl (Goodreads)–I hope the audio for this book releases on the same day as the book.  After listening to Beautiful Chaos on audio I’ve decided that there’s no other way to read this series.  If you like audio, you really have to listen to this series.

Through to You by Emily Hainsworth (Goodreads)–I’ve been reading some positive reviews for this one, so I’m really excited for it.  It sounds like a cool mix of sci-fi and paranormal.  One of the reviews on Goodreads said it’s really fresh which is always something promising to read.

Flash Reviews (16)

Title: The Demon King

Author: Cinda Williams Chima

Source: Purchased

Summary (From Goodreads): Times are hard in the mountain city of Fellsmarch. Reformed thief Han Alister will do almost anything to eke out a living for for his family. The only thing of value he has is something he can’t sell – the thick silver cuffs he’s worn since birth. They’re clearly magicked – as he grows, they grow, and he’s never been able to get them off.

One day Han and his clan friend, Dancer, confront three young wizards setting fire to the sacred mountain of Hanalea. Han takes an amulet from Micah Bayar, son of the High Wizard, to keep him from using it against them. Soon Han learns that the amulet has an evil history – it once belonged to the Demon King, the wizard who nearly destroyed the world a millennium ago. With a magical piece that powerful at stake, Han knows that the Bayars will stop at nothing to get it back.

Meanwhile, Raisa ana’Marianna, princess heir of the Fells, has her own battles to fight. She’s just returning to court after three years of freedom in the mountains – riding, hunting, and working the famous clan markets. Raisa wants to be more than an ornament in a glittering cage. She aspires to be like Hanalea – the legendary warrior queen who killed the Demon King and saved the world. But her mother has other plans for her – including marriage to a suitor who goes against everything the queendom stands for.

The Seven Realms tremble when the lives of Han and Raisa collide, fanning the flames of the smoldering war between clans and wizards.

Flash Review: The Demon King is one of the first high fantasies I read when I decided to read more high fantasy and I loved it!  It’s full of magic, mystery, and intrigue; it’s a page turner despite how long it is.  It’s written in third person, which isn’t always my favorite, but Cinda Williams Chima really makes it work in this series.  Just about every other chapter focuses on either Han or Raisa which I really enjoyed.  The set up made me wonder when the characters would come together and connect.  It also gave me more insight to their very different backgrounds which really adds to the world building.  I haven’t read the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but based on what I know from the movies I think fans of that trilogy would like this series.  I highly recommend this series!

Title: Where Things Come Back

Author: John Corey Whaley

Source: Purchased

Summary (From Goodreads): Just when seventeen-year-old Cullen Witter thinks he understands everything about his small and painfully dull Arkansas town, it all disappears. . . .

In the summer before Cullen’s senior year, a nominally-depressed birdwatcher named John Barling thinks he spots a species of woodpecker thought to be extinct since the 1940s in Lily, Arkansas. His rediscovery of the so-called Lazarus Woodpecker sparks a flurry of press and woodpecker-mania. Soon all the kids are getting woodpecker haircuts and everyone’s eating “Lazarus burgers.” But as absurd as the town’s carnival atmosphere has become, nothing is more startling than the realization that Cullen’s sensitive, gifted fifteen-year-old brother Gabriel has suddenly and inexplicably disappeared.

While Cullen navigates his way through a summer of finding and losing love, holding his fragile family together, and muddling his way into adulthood, a young missionary in Africa, who has lost his faith, is searching for any semblance of meaning wherever he can find it. As distant as the two stories seem at the start, they are thoughtfully woven ever closer together and through masterful plotting, brought face to face in a surprising and harrowing climax.

Complex but truly extraordinary, tinged with melancholy and regret, comedy and absurdity, this novel finds wonder in the ordinary and emerges as ultimately hopeful. It’s about a lot more than what Cullen calls, “that damn bird.” It’s about the dream of second chances.

Flash Review: I’ve really had to think about my feelings towards Where Things Come Back since reading it a month ago.  The verdict: I simply didn’t like it.  It’s told from two points of view which seem like they don’t have much in common, but as the story progresses and comes to a close the reader makes the connection.  I understood the connection, but so much of the story before that connection muddled everything up.  There’s was too much going on which distracted from the real story.  John Corey Whaley’s writing style didn’t work for me either.  Very often Cullen would say something like, “Imagine one does such and such” and then goes off on a dream-like tangent.  It’s written in such a way that it’s hard to tell whether it’s a daydream or if any of that tangent actually happened.  I would have never chosen this for Printz consideration, let alone honor it with the Printz award.

Title: The Strange Case of Origami Yoda

Author: Tom Angleberger

Source: Purchased

Summary (From Goodreads): In this funny, uncannily wise portrait of the dynamics of a sixth-grade class and of the greatness that sometimes comes in unlikely packages, Dwight, a loser, talks to his classmates via an origami finger puppet of Yoda. If that weren’t strange enough, the puppet is uncannily wise and prescient. Origami Yoda predicts the date of a pop quiz, guesses who stole the classroom Shakespeare bust, and saves a classmate from popularity-crushing embarrassment with some well-timed advice. Dwight’s classmate Tommy wonders how Yoda can be so smart when Dwight himself is so clueless. With contributions from his puzzled classmates, he assembles the case file that forms this novel.

Flash Review: There are a number of struggling readers in my building, so I’ve been trying harder to read more middle grade books to see if offering those helps those students in need.  I have to admit that reading The Strange Case of Origami Yoda was a stretch for me since it’s so young in focus, but I really enjoyed it.  Reading a book that’s so entirely focused on middle school was fun and a nice change of pace.  The humor is spot on for middle school students, but I know my high school students will appreciate it as well (I did).  I also have quite a few Stars Wars fans who I’m sure will enjoy Origami Yoda and his predictions.  It’s a really cute book and the added illustrations are a nice touch.

As always, thank you for the Flash Reviews idea, GreenBeanTeenQueen!

Book Trailer Thursday (51)–The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima

Last week I posted about my literary Achilles’ heel and how I want to read more fantasy and sci-fi.  I decided to start my challenge with The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima, and I LOVE it.  I’m currently reading the second book, The Exiled Queen, and plan on reading the third book, The Gray Wolf Throne, soon after I finish book two.  Since I’m working on reading all of the books currently available to read, I’m planning on putting a review of sorts together when I finish book three.  In the mean time, I found this trailer which explains what the series is about, in particular book one.  I’m keeping this post short because I want to get back to The Exiled Queen (I soooo love this series!  Did I mention that?)

Summary (From Goodreads): This novel marks the first giant step in a momentous fantasy journey orchestrated by Cinda Williams Chima, the author of the popular Warrior Heir series. Its two chief protagonists are ex-thief Han Alister, an impoverished commoner, and Raisa ana’Marianna, the headstrong Princess Heir of the Fells. The Demon King brings them together, creating part of a volatile mix of action, magic, and danger. Empathetic characters; wizardly attacks.


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