Sunday, March 29, 2009

Seasons don't Beat the Reaper

As much as I love YA lit, every now and again I just have to escape from that world with an adult book. Yes, here's my secret: I love adult literary fiction. Thanks to the wonderful people at Hachette Book Group's adult publicity department, I acquired a promotional copy of Beat the Reaper by first-time novelist Josh Bazell. It took me a long time to pick up, but once I picked it up I couldn't put it down. Lucky for the book, Numb3rs was pre-empted by the NCAA tournament this weekend.

The plot: This is not a book that is supposed to work, given all its elements of weird. Lest we get too caught up in current literary trends, there is not a single supernatural creature in this book, which scores big points with me. What makes this book weird is, well, everything else that goes on. The central character is Dr. Peter Brown, formerly known as Pietro Brwna, a former, and very talented, mob hitman. He's currently in witness protection, working at Manhattan Catholic Hospital. Take his word for it: ManCat is not a place you want to go when you're well, never mind when you're sick. It's just another day of making rounds when he enters the room of Eddy Squillante, a mafia member who recognizes him immediately. Squillante's in for some major surgery and doesn't know he's got a hack for a doctor. What he does know is that he's hit pay dirt. Before Peter/Pietro can stop him, Squillante's put in a call to the mob. If he dies during surgery, his hit men will be on Peter/Pietro regardless of who's at fault for his death.

Why you'll love it: With all its crazy side plots and the back-and-forth movement through Pietro's memories and his current dilemma, not to mention the footnotes, you'd think this book would just get too tangled in itself. Instead, it's simultaneously horrific and hilarious and kind of gross. Pietro has strong morals and has zero compunctions about causing violence if he believes it will benefit the smaller and weaker. Tied into Pietro's story are notes on north Jersey/NYC mafia history, a romance, and the unsanitary side of medicine. It's House meets The Sopranos sprinkled with bitter humor.

Is this a YA novel by any stretch of the imagination? No. But it's exactly what I needed, and what I was looking for. I'm a fan of Chuck Palahniuk and this is a great next-read for his readers.

Review in the NY Times || Interview with Josh Bazell at Three Guys One Book || Interview in New York Magazine

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Avoiding kids' writing scams

Back in this post, I talked about one of my favorite blogs, Writer Beware. The part of me that loves crime shows also loves the coverage Writer Beware offers of publishing scams. "Agents" who run off with people's money. "Traditional" publishers who charge for their services. Publishers who will publish your book for free, honest, but want you to buy a ridiculous number of your own book, or spend money for their editing services. Publishing as an industry is not the most transparent thing out there, and there are crooks who take advantage of this. As you'll learn while reading Writer Beware, there are many shady publishing practices that don't LOOK shady at first glance but turn out to be no good when you scratch the surface.

One of these no-good schemes was recently profiled in the Guardian: Nothing to write home about. The short version of the story goes something like this: 10-year-old girl finds out via mail that her writing has been chosen for publication in a book! Girl's mom finds out that most everyone else in her daughter's class got the same letter and in fact, the company publishes between 60 and 80 percent of everything it receives. The company encourages parents to spend insane amounts of money on the book in which their child's writing appears, a book that will never appear in libraries or bookstores. But isn't it worth spending the money just to see that child's writing in print?

No. It really isn't. Because it's pretty much a scam. Even though it will cost the child nothing to have her writing appear in this book, that the writing appears at all is essentially meaningless. The publisher is willing to take but not give money, and they're certainly not willing to edit and/or help the child improve her writing. The parents would be better off going to some place like, a reputable vanity press that doesn't try to disguise itself as anything else, and getting a book of their child's writing. At least that way they'd know all the costs up front and no fake certificates of meritorious writing are involved. It's important to note, too, that this "Your poetry/story is going to be published in this book you can pay an exorbitant amount of money for!" is not a new thing. I remember a girl in my seventh-grade writing class that also got her poem "published." When she read her poem out loud to the class, all I could think was, "That poem isn't very good." Clearly, I was destined to review for Kirkus from a very young age. My early career path as a critic aside, I always had the thought that there was something going on other than the oh-so-great quality of her poem. When I grew up and learned the basics of how writing gets published, I was able to confirm my 'tween inklings.

With the pressure parents feel to raise "perfect" children, it's easy for them to get caught up in the idea that their kids will grow up to be the next J.K. Rowling. Indeed, the Guardian article addresses "pester power" that fuels publishing scams like this one. And from what I see around the internet, growing up does not necessarily mean that everyone who wants to write learns that all publishers are created equal.

If you like Writer Beware (and why wouldn't you?), I definitely recommend reading the archives of Miss Snark's blog. From Miss Snark, I learned two of the most important tenets of publishing: 1. Money should always flow in the direction of the writer and 2. Good writing trumps all.

Friday, March 20, 2009

People I want to be when I grow up

Publishers Weekly has a nice writeup about Wendy Lamb in today's Talkback: A Fifth Anniversary for Wendy Lamb Books. What I find most heartening is that the success of WLB shows that there is a flourishing market for literary YA. Congratulations, Wendy, and may you have many more anniversaries.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Loving and losing

If it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, then I am becoming an expert on love.

BCCLS, my employer since February, 2006, is changing the role that consultants play in the larger operation of the system. It's sort of confusing, but the way BCCLS works, in short, is that there are 75 libraries and a group of 13 librarians and IT specialists who work in an office. The librarians serve as consultants on various aspects of frontline library services, and the IT specialists do magic. More and more, libraries are demanding technology training for their staff, training on the cataloging program we use, and IT support. What are they demanding a lot less of? Support for young adult services. Combined with budget cuts, this brings me to some very bad news:

I will not have a job as of July 1, 2009. BCCLS is eliminating the YA Services Librarian position.

When I got the news, I cried in front of everyone in the office because I was so upset and you know, I'm not really ashamed that I did that. What every one of you know (I hope), and what everyone I work with knows, is that I love this job and care deeply about doing it well. It was the job I'd hoped to land since I got accepted to library school. Does it drive me crazy from time to time? Sure. All of our jobs drive us crazy from time to time. Despite the crazy, it was the opportunity for me to do what I always wanted, which was serving librarians who serve teens. Teen librarians almost always work alone in their buildings and are often misunderstood by staff who don't see much value in teen services. If I could be someone who could make them stronger in their careers, then I would accomplish something. I like to think that in my time here I have accomplished more than I ever thought I would on the day I accepted the position.

As of right now, I don't have another full-time or part-time library job to go to. I still love YA literature, so I will continue with my Printz Award committee duties and writing for Kirkus, VOYA, and School Library Journal. I'm also turning an article in to YALS this weekend, working on a book for ALA Editions, kicking around a proposal for another YA lit book, and offering my services to libraries as a consultant, assuming no one opens a YA or adult services position anytime soon. As for the future...I have a few ideas, but nothing is definite yet.

This blog isn't going anywhere, so please feel free to keep reading if you like it here. Just be forewarned that in addition to my musings on literature, you may be subjected to the occasional Confessions of an Unemployed YA Librarian.

Maximum entertainment

Has the world finally reached Twilight saturation? Perhaps, because it seems like there's a lot of talk these days about James Patterson's Maximum Ride series and Catherine Hardwicke's possibly directing the movie.

-Popwatch Blog: Will Maximum Ride be the next Twilight? (No. Not any more than Twilight was the next Harry Potter. Let's make a deal, people. I won't call Watchmen "the next Dark Knight" if you stop calling every movie based on a YA novel "the next [whatever popular YA franchise came before it].")

-MTV Movies blog: ‘Twilight’ Director Takes A ‘Maximum Ride’ For Teen Fantasy Pic

-Hollywood Reporter: Catherine Hardwicke eyes "Maximum Ride"

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Melissa Rabey for the 2011 Printz

Ballots for the ALA elections have started going out, so now I will take the time to shamelessly pimp someone I voted for.

Melissa Rabey, whose blog is Librarian By Day, is one of the most organized, thoughtful people I know. This year, she's running for a spot on the 2011 Printz committee, so if you've got a vote to spare, give it to her! Every day, she busts her butt to serve the teen patrons of the C. Burr Artz branch of the Frederick Co. (MD) Public Library as best she knows how. She is a font of knowledge in the realms of history, fashion, and pop culture and will even bring her expertise in historical fiction to the YALSA Genre Galaxy preconference in Chicago this June. She also has years of experience on YALSA committees, including Popular Paperbacks and Organization & Bylaws.

Most importantly, Melissa is my good friend of many years, fellow America's Next Top Model addict, and owned by an adorable cat. She can hem pants, review books, and discuss classic movies all at once. She's an asset to YALSA and someone who will be fantastic on the Printz. Give her a vote, won't you?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

...But I know it when I see it

Via YALSA-BK and the news, I've been following the saga of the West Bend, WI, library and the town debate over YA books that contain GLBTQ content (the one most often named in the news is Geography Club by Brent Hartinger) belong in the YA section of the library, which services 6th-12th grade. I've actually read the story with more interest than rage. That was, until I listened to this radio interview (link is "West Bend Library Issue") with the woman who filed the complaint against the GLBTQ suggested booklist for teens. During the listener call-in, the complainant, Ginny Maziarka, said that she'd met with West Bend's YA librarian and read the "explicit" parts aloud. When asked by the DJ how old the YA librarian, Kristin Pekoll, is, Maziarka responded that Pekoll was in her late 20s. Then comes the irritating part.

Maziarka had the gall to ask Pekoll if (and I paraphrase here) if these were the kind of books that she would take home and read to her children. Pekoll responded, "That is irrelevant to this discussion." Ms Pekoll: GOOD FOR YOU. That was absolutely the right and professional answer to give. Your delivering that answer does the profession good. I don't know how the rest of you feel about this, but my personal life is not up for discussion with my patrons. None of ours should be, regardless of the community we serve.

First, what an incredibly rude question for Ms Maziarka & Co. to ask. That's the kind of question my mother taught me to respond to with a smile and an "I'll forgive you for asking that question if you will forgive me for not responding." Second, and I know this may come as a shock to some, but the number of children one has is completely irrelevant to whether or not one can do a great job as a YA librarian. I've known wonderful YA librarians with no children. I've known terrible YA librarians with two or three children. Ms Pekoll's reproductive status and her parenting choices (if she decides to parent) are no one's business but hers. I wonder if the would-be censors asked the male library director if he had kids, or would read these books to his kids. I bet not. Okay, off that soapbox; it's just a topic that's close to my heart and I had to rant.

The most fundamental problem Ms Maziarka & Co. have, in my opinion, is that although she knows the YA section is supposed to serve people in sixth to twelfth grade, she refuses to acknowledge that anyone over the age of eleven is reading the books. YA is published for people approximately 12-18 years old and despite what the media likes to tell us, there are older teens who love YA. I also find the excuse of "there's nothing on Geography Club that would indicate its content" a little silly. Is there no printing on the book jacket? Every hardcover copy of Geography Club I've ever seen has flap copy written on it. Every review ever written about this book, several of which are easily readable on Amazon or Barnes&, discusses the content. With all that information readily available, I'm not buying the argument.

Listen to the whole interview. The callers that call in clearly haven't got a clue as to how the internet differs from books, or how collection development works. The DJ and Ms Maziarka are trying to rile people up. Frankly, I'm not riled because it's patently obvious they, like their listeners, also haven't got a clue as to how collection development, accessibility to materials in libraries, literature awards, writing for teens, bookselling and library law, etc. works. Sometimes I think that the lack of knowledge and education in those who want to control what other people can access at the library is a greater threat than their opposition to "objectionable" content itself.

At the end of the interview, Ms Maziarka stated that she believed West Bend to be a faith-based community. If that is so, then I have faith that the library will keep books like Geography Club in YA where they belong and will leave parenting in the hands of individual parents, not one small group.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Moving and shaking our way to better collections

First, the squee: I was named to Library Journal's Movers and Shakers 2009.

Second, the story behind the story: I was IMing with my friend Tina, also a YA librarian, and she said, "The [M&S feature] was a bit Meyer heavy." For once in my life, I disagreed about there being an overload of Stephenie Meyer's work in pop culture. The story behind how BCCLS came to have 50+ copies of The Host is a really important one and I need to tell it because it's a prime example of a slightly unorthodox, but crucial, part of collection development.

Little, Brown's adult division was kind enough to send me an advance of The Host last February after I missed getting a copy at ALA Midwinter 2008. When I received it, I took it down the hall to Ruth (BCCLS's adult fiction guru) and said, "This is a book that the adult services librarians in BCCLS need to know about, if they don't already. It won't be on sale until May, but it's going to be an instant bestseller. Stephenie Meyer's popularity is really going up."

Ruth looked at me and said, "Okay. Who's Stephenie Meyer?"

It was a perfectly legitimate question for Ruth to ask. She deals with adult books and is extremely knowledgeable about them. She's certainly not opposed to reading YA, but she didn't know who the big-name YA authors are outside of J.K. Rowling. And why should she? Selecting and knowing YA isn't her job and the books she enjoys reading outside of work aren't YA for the most part (yet, haha). It occurred to me in that moment that sometimes it was too easy for me to live in my YA vacuum where everyone I talked to and everyone whose blog I read knew tons about YA. Try as the media might to make us believe it, Stephenie Meyer is not as popular, strictly in numerical terms, as J.K. Rowling. So I lent Ruth the galley and ran back to my computer to post to BCCLSShelf, the listserv we use for adult and A/V collection development. There was no way Ruth was going to be the only adult services librarian with the "Who's Stephenie Meyer?" question. Remember, this was many months before the release of the Twilight movie. I wrote to my adult services colleagues explaining Stephenie Meyer's popularity with teens and how The Host, while an adult book, was going to find a huge audience with teens and adults alike.

On the morning of The Host's release, there were almost fifty copies available in 73 BCCLS libraries. People, that is awesome. Do I count myself as the sole reason so many libraries were ready to check it out? Absolutely not. But I hope that maybe one or two (or ten) libraries used my email as a jump start to buying and cataloging the book and having it available on its street date.

Professional journals are indispensable when doing collection development, but buzz, pop culture attention, and advertising are extremely powerful things and those, not professional journals, are what make a lot of people walk into our libraries and request books. The power of sparkly vampires is not to be underestimated.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Big news in small packages

Books, Bits, and Bytes has a very useful YA Lit 2.0 presentation to check out.

Karen Cushman made "Corpus Bones!" the coolest non-four-letter curse ever, and she has shared this announcement: long last the arrival of

Yes, I am moving into the 21st century but I am only going as a tourist.

Karen, welcome to 21st-century reader's advisory and book discussion. You are always welcome, and we're happy to get you a cup of tea (or coffee, or whatever your preferred drink is).

As we welcome Karen to the online childrens/YA literature fold, we say goodbye (mostly) to someone else. When I was new to the NYC area and networking to learn more about my colleagues (and hoping that my publishing colleagues might fix me up with a galley or two), I had the pleasure of meeting Mimi Kayden of HarperCollins Children's Books. She has now announced her retirement, and all of us remember how she made our careers better by simply doing her job. Thank you for everything you've done for the librarian community, Mimi, and I hope your retirement is full of sunny beaches, fruity drinks, and cabana boys.

On the reading front, check out this NYTimes piece on Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, a sleeper realistic fiction hit that didn't get the press it deserved in the wake of OMGVAMPIRES: A Story of a Teenager's Suicide Quietly Becomes a Best Seller.

Because my sister loves me very much, she bought me this t-shirt for my birthday.

The Eleventh Stack blog of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh has an entry this week on one of my favorite topics: great YA books for adult readers. See it here: Books Beyond the Ages.

HarperCollins has launched a new blog aimed at librarians: Library Love Fest

Meme: Five things I'm addicted to

Trisha tagged me for a fun meme: Five things I'm addicted to. I will probably fall saunter vaguely downwards a little bit in your esteem after you read this, but to know me and my bad pop-culture taste is to love me.

1. Solitary. Without a doubt, this is the scariest reality show on television. It's nauseating, mind-bending, and completely draws you in from the beginning. Concept: Nine people live in total isolation in 10x10 pods. We're talking no books, no music, no human contact, not even a picture on the wall. Their environment is controlled by Val, an omnipotent computer who is responsible for the distribution of food, light, sleep, and seemingly impossible, torturous tests. Sleep-deprived and hungry, contestants have to do mentally and physically demanding tasks like making a formation of 400 dominoes without knocking any of them over until the last one is in place. Contestants may quit at any time by pushing a red button located underneath Val, and what's sort of neat to watch and contemplate is the fact that no one can make a contestant quit except him/herself. If this show is half as difficult as it looks, I wouldn't last three hours.

Watch all three seasons on Hulu and follow the TWoP discussion

2. My Butler Bag. This is seriously the best damn purse ever made. I don't know about the rest of you, but my cell phone never rings unless I'm driving, and I can always find my iPod except when I want to listen to it, and the shade of lipstick I pull out of my purse (you can usually find me carrying 3-5 shades at any given time) is never the one I'm wearing. And I really hate how gum always gets squished and gross at the bottom of my bag. This bag solves all those problems. Butler Bags come with their insides all nicely compartmentalized so you never have to go digging in your bag to find what you're looking for. They're also made of very good quality leather, the kind that starts stiff and crinkles and gets softer as you use it. I have the Hybrid bag, and it's big enough to hold all the crap I usually carry around plus two paperback (or one hardcover) books, AND my #3 addiction...

3. My Samsung NC-10 netbook. It's not that I don't love my 15" MacBook Pro, it's that a 15" MacBook Pro weighs six pounds and is kind of large and doesn't have the world's best battery life. I'm hoping to do a little more traveling this year and need a laptop that was more portable than my MBP, but I didn't need (or want) one with lots of bells and whistles. My Samsung, which is pink and named Mimi, came with Windows XP, 1GB of RAM (which I upgraded to 2GB), 3 USB ports, an SD card reader, and a 160GB hard drive. I think the keyboard is sized at 92 or 93 percent, and all the keys are where you'd expect them to be, which is often a concern when buying a netbook. (There are both right and left Shift keys, and the Enter button is sized larger than the letter keys, etc.) Did I mention it's pink? It's PINK.

4. Guitar Hero: Metallica. Yes, I know it won't be out until the 29th, but I love it just based on the song listing. Metallica! Motorhead! It's the greatest hits of mullet rock! On the nights when I look at my pile of YA books and just don't feel like reading any more, I put in GH3: Legends of Rock and am working my way through five-starring every song on Hard. (Coming soon: a post on What Makes for a Good Guitar Hero Player. Hint: Years of piano lessons help.)

5. Jo Malone perfume. If you've never seen me wearing my glasses, you probably don't know that I have really, really bad eyesight. I've been wearing glasses since kindergarten and it wasn't until fairly recently that optical companies made soft contact lenses in a power strong enough for me to wear. In compensation for this poor eyesight, I have really good hearing and a good sense of smell. I love learning about and sampling different kinds of perfume, and Jo Malone is one of the best, imo, in terms of throw, not drying down to an icky chemical scent that's impossible to wash off. Today I'm wearing Sweet Lime and Cedar, but I also love Pomegranate Noir and Blue Agava and Cacao. The best thing about Jo Malone? Travel candles. Why didn't I think of that?

If you see this and you'd like to participate, consider yourself tagged (especially if you're Liz or Melissa).

Read it, wear it, give it

Thanks to the evilest woman I know my very dear friend Molly, I started buying some of my perfume through a small company called Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab. One of BPAL's schticks is perfume lines based around books and poetry. For some time now they've offered perfumes inspired by the works of most recent Newbery winner Neil Gaiman. Ever the ones to use their powers for good, the people at Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab and their non-perfume-items sister store, Black Phoenix Trading Post have started a shop-for-charity project you might find of interest. From BPAL's recent email:

What have we here?

New jewelry?!

The hell you say!

Black Phoenix Trading Post is OVERJOYED to present the first in a series of lockets and pendants inspired by the short stories of Neil Gaiman! This is a charitable, not-for-profit venture: proceeds from every single piece go to Match It For Pratchett, which is raising money to match Terry Pratchett's $1,000,000.00 donation to the Alzheimer's Research Trust.

Thank you so much, Neil, for giving us so many years of joy, wonder, and inspiration, and for the pleasure of working with you on this project!

And as all of us in the YA lit world know, Terry Pratchett won a Printz Honor for his book Nation. My personal favorite of the Gaiman scent locket pendants is inspired by one of his YA stories, "The Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire," which appears in Gothic! Ten Original Dark Tales edited by Deborah Noyes. I'd post a picture but the only ones I can get are framed in the BPAL logo. But go look!

So the gist of all of this is: buy yourself or a friend/loved one some beautiful jewelry, know that the proceeds are going to a good cause, and while you're waiting for the jewelry to arrive, read a Gaiman or Pratchett book. Or look at the cover of the March School Library Journal, because my lord, that picture is gorgeous.

(Not a BPAL employee, just a satisfied customer.)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Hungry new fans?

You know what makes me smile about this piece? The fact that it's at Bloody Disgusting. Here's a site dedicated to blogging all there is about horror and science fiction movies, movies not targeted to teens, and they're excited about the Hunger Games movie. While I'd ask if they were really sure that it was Stephenie Meyer who made movie house execs take notice of The Hunger Games (a book with a 200,000 first printing went unnoticed by movie execs? Really?), I'm a little squee at the fact that these jaded horror movie fans are excited about a YA book and its future movie.

I know some people will question the blogger's enthusiasm coming for a "Battle Royale meets Running Man" book, rather than it coming for The Hunger Games on its own merits, but that's ridiculous. Selling The Hunger Games as "Battle Royale meets Running Man" is simply good reader's advisory and a good way to draw new readers to the book, and maybe the genre.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Lifestyles of the rich and well-read

This week's media coverage of YA literature is brought to you in part by an opinion piece in the Tufts University Observer: Falling for Young Adult Literature.

I had high hopes for this piece, because it appears to be written by someone who has not only read more than two YA books in the past five years, but actually enjoys them. You all know I'm a big advocate for those over 18 reading YA.

The biggest problem with this piece (and yes, I know it's an opinion piece; that's why I have a blog, so I can disagree with opinion pieces) is a problem that YA librarians see every day when doing RA, collection development, and professional reading: YA literature is held to a different standard than adult literature. Not once does Ms Surya complain about the small, subpar selection of adult novels that has dominated the adult section of the bookstore for years, but the truth is that the percentage of great vs crappy adult novels is about the same as great vs. crappy YA novels. About three thousand YA novels come out every year. Every year, there are fights over what will win the Printz and every year, there are books that are quickly forgotten. Such is the way of reading and publishing.

I quote:

As a response to this recent sales explosion, publishers have started churning out YA books faster than Stephen King novels. A large chunk of the YA genre shows a trend toward developing books with poor writing, repetitive or clich├ęd plots, and an unnatural, unhealthy focus on romance.

What's wrong with this statement? A few things, if you ask me. First, she says "faster than Stephen King novels" like it's a bad thing. From what I've read and seen online, Stephen King is a dedicated, thoughtful writer and contributor to the art of writing. Also, what Ms Surya calls a trend of developing bad books is entirely a matter of opinion. Cliched plots? There are only 12 plots in all of literature. Poor writing? What makes for poor writing? Even I in my jaded years of reading YA have arguments (friendly ones!) with my colleagues about what good writing is and is not. Last, but not least, what exactly is an unnatural focus on romance, and do these unnatural books really make up a "large chunk of YA?" Books like Gossip Girl, states Surya, "are sad and inaccurate portrayals of teenagers today. Their characters are engulfed in worlds of beauty, fashion, and premature sex— two-dimensional universes that unfairly stereotype teenagers. These authors fail to provide us with any kind of critical lens for our lives, reducing us to mere piles of Gucci and fluff." I think the unfair one here is Ms Surya, who fails to recognize that not all books about teens set out to portray their lives with middle-class accuracy. Books like Gossip Girl are meant to be over-the-top and escapist. They're meant to give a different slice of life. This goes back to the problem of holding YA to a different standard, both moral and quality in this case, than adult literature. Ms Surya seems to think that it is an author's responsibility, and especially a YA author's responsibility, to "provide us with any kind of critical lens for our lives" when in fact, this is not the job of a YA author or the YA genre. An author's job is to tell his or her story. Period. Authors, regardless of what age group they write for owe nothing to their audience except a story.

At the end, Ms Surya reassures us that though the YA market is seemingly dominated by crap, there is still hope in authors like Libba Bray. Well, that's nice. The closing paragraph of the piece begins:

I don’t just want to hear about the girl that I am—I want to know about the woman I will become or, more importantly, the woman I want to become. Books are meant to do more than indulge our fantasies.

That's all fine and good for Ms Surya, and to be fair this is her opinion piece, but isn't this statement a slap in the face to those of us who like to read to indulge our fantasies? Truth is, there is no wrong way to read. Books mean different things to everyone and everyone reads for a different reason. Think of books in the same vein as movies. Some movies are meant to make you laugh, others to make you cry, others to make you think or scream. Books are the same. One art form is not better or more meaningful than the other.

When you read, in the immortal words of Hannah Montana, you can have the best of both worlds. I say we embrace the Gossip Girl and read for whatever reason is closest to our hearts. Even if our hearts contain nothing but Gucci and fluff.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

In which I meme about YA

A group of YA librarians on Facebook put together a list of 100 "top" teen novels. "Top" goes in quotes because they freely admit this is something wholly unscientific. It's just meant to see what you've read and have a little fun.

Feel free to copy and repost this in your own blog.

The following list of books teens love, books teens should read, and
books adults who serve teens should know about was compiled IN
ABSOLUTELY NO SCIENTIFIC MANNER and should be taken with a very large
grain of salt.

Put an "X" next to the books you've read
Put a "+" next to the books you LOVE
Put a "#" next to the books you plan on reading
Tally your "X"s at the bottom
Share with your friends!

1. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy / Douglas Adams X
2. Kit's Wilderness / David Almond
3. Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian / Sherman Alexie X+
4. Speak / Laurie Halse Anderson X+
5. Feed / M.T. Anderson X
6. Flowers in the Attic / V.C. Andrews X
7. 13 Reasons Why / Jay Asher X
8. Am I Blue? / Marion Dane Bauer (editor) X
9. Audrey Wait! / Robin Benway X
10. Weetzie Bat / Francesca Lia Block X
11. Tangerine / Edward Bloor X
12. Forever / Judy Blume X
13. What I Saw and How I Lied / Judy Blundell X
14. Tyrell / Coe Booth X+
15. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants / Ann Brashares X
16. A Great and Terrible Beauty / Libba Bray X
17. The Princess Diaries / Meg Cabot X
18. The Stranger / Albert Camus
19. Ender's Game / Orson Scott Card
20. Postcards from No Man's Land / Aidan Chambers
21. Perks of Being a Wallflower / Stephen Chbosky X+
22. And Then There Were None / Agatha Christie
23. Gingerbread / Rachel Cohn
24. Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist / Rachel Cohn and David Levithan X
25. Artemis Fowl (series) / Eoin Colfer X+
26. The Hunger Games / Suzanne Collins X+
27. The Midwife's Apprentice / Karen Cushman X
28. The Truth About Forever / Sarah Dessen X
29. Little Brother / Cory Doctorow X+
30. A Northern Light / Jennifer Donnelly
31. Tears of a Tiger / Sharon Draper X
32. The House of the Scorpion / Nancy Farmer X+
33. Breathing Underwater / Alex Flinn X
34. Stardust / Neil Gaiman
35. Annie on My Mind / Nancy Garden X
36. What Happened to Cass McBride / Gail Giles X
37. Fat Kid Rules the World / K.L. Going
38. Lord of the Flies / William Golding X
39. Looking for Alaska / John Green X
40. Bronx Masquerade / Nikki Grimes X
41. Out of the Dust / Karen Hesse X
42. Hoot / Carl Hiaasen X
43. The Outsiders / S.E. Hinton X
44. Crank / Ellen Hopkins X
45 The First Part Last / Angela Johnson X+
46. Blood and Chocolate / Annette Curtis Klause X
47. Arrow's Flight / Mercedes Lackey
48. Hattie Big Sky / Kirby Larson
49. To Kill a Mockingbird / Harper Lee
50. Boy Meets Boy / David Levithan X
51. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks / E. Lockhart X
52. The Giver / Lois Lowry X
53. Number the Stars / Lois Lowry X
54. Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie / David Lubar X+
55. Inexcusable / Chris Lynch X
56. The Earth, My Butt and Other Big, Round Things / Carolyn Mackler X
57. Dragonsong / Anne McCaffrey X
58. White Darkness / Geraldine McCaughrean
59. Sold / Patricia McCormick
60. Jellicoe Road / Melina Marchetta *
61. Wicked Lovely / Melissa Marr X
62. Twilight / Stephenie Meyer X
63. Dairy Queen / Catherine Murdock X+
64. Fallen Angels / Walter Dean Myers
65. Monster / Walter Dean Myers X
66. Step From Heaven / An Na
67. Mama Day / Gloria Naylor
68. The Keys to the Kingdom (series) / Garth Nix
69. Sabriel / Garth Nix X+
70. Airborn / Kenneth Oppel X
71. Eragon / Christopher Paolini
72. Hatchet / Gary Paulsen X
73. Life As We Knew It / Susan Beth Pfeffer X+
74. The Golden Compass / Phillip Pullman X
75. Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging / Louise Rennison X+
76. The Lightning Thief / Rick Riordan X+
77. Always Running: La Vida Loca / Luis Rodriguez X
78. how i live now / Meg Rosoff X
79. Harry Potter (series) / J.K. Rowling XXXXXXX+ (one for each book)
80. Holes / Louis Sachar X
81. Catcher in the Rye / J. D. Salinger X
82. Push / Sapphire X
83. Persepolis / Marjane Satrapi X
84. Unwind / Neil Shusterman
85. Coldest Winter Ever / Sister Souljah X
86. Stargirl / Jerry Spinelli X
87. Chanda's Secrets / Allan Stratton
88. Tale of One Bad Rat / Brian Talbot X
89. Rats Saw God / Rob Thomas X
90. Lord of the Rings / J.R.R. Tolkien XXX (one for each book)
91. Stuck in Neutral / Terry Trueman X
92. Gossip Girl / Cecily Von Ziegesar X
93. Uglies / Scott Westerfeld X+
94. Every Time a Rainbow Dies / Rita Williams-Garcia
95. Pedro and Me / Judd Winick X
96. Hard Love / Ellen Wittlinger X
97. American Born Chinese / Gene Luen Yang X+
98. Elsewhere / Gabrielle Zevin X+
99. I am the Messenger / Markus Zusak X+
100. The Book Thief / Markus Zusak X+

My total Xs: 77 of 100. Not bad. Notice the WIDE GAP in fantasy and historical fiction! And also in the books I was supposed to read in school but somehow never got assigned. (I think I am one of thirty people in the world who got through high school without ever being assigned To Kill a Mockingbird. Maybe I'll read it someday, and maybe I won't.)

Authors and prizes and marketing, oh my!

Today, it's all about other people.

From the Boston Globe, Faith and Good Works: Mormon writers find their niche in wholesome young adult genre. Once again, the press tells us what we YA librarians and readers have known all along: There's a place in YA for just about everyone. YA is no more all "sex, drugs and vampires" than it is squeaky-clean puppy love, but both can easily be found in the genre. YA readers welcome sex or no sex, as long as the writing is appealing. And the article interviews Martine Leavitt, author of one of the best books I read in 2008: Keturah and Lord Death.

The 2008 LA Times Book Prize finalists were announced at their Jacket Copy blog. The Young Adult Literature category is pretty diverse: There's fiction, nonfiction, a graphic work, characters who aren't white, and The Graveyard Book.

My friend Kerri at the Mulberry Street Branch of NYPL sent me a flyer for what looks like a fabulous event. On March 18, from 6-7:45 P.M., David Levithan will host a YA author panel. Panelists and other author guests include Libba Bray, Rachel Cohn, Eireann Corrigan (winner of the Garden State Teen Book Award) Justine Larbalestier, Barry Lyga, and Scott Westerfeld. Space is limited, so you have to call to reserve a seat. If you want more information, you can reach Kimberly Spring at 212-966-3424 or email the library at

I don't know about the rest of you, but I never get over the internal fangirl squee when I realize that an author whose work I love knows I exist. OMG Nancy Werlin knows I exist! Now that I'm over the squee, I wanted to share with you some very interesting information that Nancy shared with me: When Impossible comes out in paperback, it will be cross-marketed as an adult novel. I have only one word for this: Awesome! I can only hope that Impossible is the first of many books that will be cross-marketed this way. YA for all!

Those of you who buy popular music from your libraries, don't forget that U2's No Line on the Horizon is out today. It's already #1 in Amazon music and on iTunes.

Back to reading and writing reviews!