Of the six Talk It Up! books:
* Two are centered around the relationships of a group of friends -- Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City by Kirsten Miller and The P.L.A.I.N. Janes by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg
* One is historical fiction -- Black Duck by Janet Taylor Lisle
* One is speculative fiction -- Magic or Madness by Justine Larbalestier. (See why I couldn't say "fantasy" or "science fiction?" It would have narrowed the field significantly.)
* One is a graphic novel -- The P.L.A.I.N. Janes by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg. I never said I wasn't repeating clues.
* Two have urban settings that are important to the plot -- Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City by Kirsten Miller and Magic or Madness by Justine Larbalestier
* Two are by an author who was not born in the United States -- The P.L.A.I.N. Janes by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg (Cecil is Canadian) and Magic or Madness by Justine Larbalestier (Justine is Australian).
So the final listing of books for Talk It Up! 2008 is:
- The P.L.A.I.N. Janes by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg
- Invisible by Pete Hautman
- Born to Rock by Gordon Korman
- Magic or Madness by Justine Larbalestier
- Black Duck by Janet Taylor Lisle
- Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City by Kirsten Miller
For Speak Out! I listed the following clues:
* One is nonfiction -- This one...I'm sorry. One of them WAS nonfiction but I had to drop it at the last minute.
* Two of the authors have very popular blogs -- Barry Lyga and Sarah Dessen
* One received a Printz honor -- I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
* Three have family dramas -- Just Listen by Sarah Dessen, A Brief Chapter in my Impossible Life by Dana Reinhardt, and, although this one is a little less obvious than the other two, The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga
* None are set west of the Mississippi -- Unless you count the Australian setting of I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
* Two are first novels -- A Brief Chapter in my Impossible Life by Dana Reinhardt...but this one's a trick question, because Tyrell by Coe Booth is also a first novel. I didn't count The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga because I added it to the Speak Out! listing after I wrote the entry.
The complete list of Speak Out! 2008 titles:
- Tyrell by Coe Booth
- The Blue Girl by Charles De Lint
- Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
- The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga
- A Brief Chapter in my Impossible Life by Dana Reinhardt
- I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
And how I picked the books.
I've been working on this list of books since September. Yes, September. There has been much angst and substituting and deleting and erasing them from my Dry-Erase Board of Doom. There's a short story behind every title.
The first book I picked was Magic or Madness, and I never moved it off the list. I always have at least one fantasy or SF title, and this is one of the newest and greatest in the YA genre. I liked the elements of realism, and that the main character is not a white middle-class American. Plus, Justine is a cool person and I'm going to see if she can do a Shush! with us.
Besides Magic or Madness, there were two books that were easy choices: Black Duck and The PLAIN Janes. I always have a historical title, and Black Duck was easily my favorite of last year. It had adventure, a little romance, and a very cool look at Prohibition. The fact that it made BBYA didn't hurt, either. I also like to include a work of nonfiction or a graphic novel, and to me The PLAIN Janes was an obvious choice. It has substance as well as style, and a sequel is due out this fall.
I try to achieve a balance of books with male and female main characters, and at this point I needed more boy books. So I added The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl because Barry is coming for YA Boot Camp 2.0 in September, plus I'm a huge fan of his work. Now my "boy" and "girl" books were even. Kiki Strike was a pretty obvious choice for another girl book: It had adventure, a diverse cast, and local interest because Bergen County is so close to New York City. Now I had one slot left to fill. I needed a boy book, and I wanted something funny to go against the serious natures of the other books. Since I used Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie last year, I couldn't use it this year, but I could use a Gordon Korman title. Born to Rock was recently out in paperback, plus I loved it, so there was my list.
I worked on the Speak Out! books at the same time as the Talk It Up! books. Some of the choices, like some of the TIU choices, were easier than others.
There was never any doubt that Tyrell and The Blue Girl were going to be a part of the program. Street fiction and urban fantasy are both super hot in YA lit right now, and these titles are two of the best. Everything else...that's another story.
The next book I added to the list was An Abundance of Katherines by John Green. I love stories where the geeky yet mostly normal guy gets the girl, and no one writes them better than John Green. I'm hoping that what I call the "cerebral boy book," or boy romances set in contemporary times, are on the upswing in children's publishing. (PLEASE! NO MORE VAMPIRES!)
Then I wanted a nonfiction title, so I added The Burn Journals by Brent Runyon. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of this book but it's an excellent title for discussion. Then came A Brief Chapter in my Impossible Life, because I wanted a "girl" title and this one features a wonderful main character who angsts about something other than boys. With one title left to go, I knew I needed a "girl" book. Many, many thanks to my friends Liz, Sophie, and Melissa who helped me pick out these titles. After much agonizing, Liz suggested Just Listen, which I had initially been reluctant to put on the list because I'm not a Sarah Dessen fan. I realized, though, that Liz was right, as usual. Just Listen is great book discussion fodder.
...I went to order the books and found An Abundance of Katherines won't be out in paperback until the end of May. I needed another cerebral boy book, preferably a Printz winner or honor. I am the Messenger was the next obvious choice, so in it went.
...I reread Fanboy and Goth Girl. It was even better than I remembered it being, but when it comes to Talk It Up! titles I prefer to err on the side of conservative and I really didn't think parents of seventh graders would let me get away with some of the content in that book. So I moved it to Speak Out, where it took the place of The Burn Journals. I know that makes me boring, but nonfiction is going to be the first to go.
...I had a hole in Talk It Up! that needed to be filled by a boy book. What's my personal rule with book groups? When in doubt, go with Pete Hautman. More than one group in BCCLS read Rash last year, so I chose an older title of his, Invisible. Invisible is one of my favorite examples of how to write in first person, and I think its utter creepiness will capture readers.
A week later, I presented all the books (after losing much sleep writing booktalks). I'm really pleased with the way this year's list shaped up and I hope the teens in TIU and SO around BCCLS enjoy them as much as I did.