Posts Tagged ‘great YA books’

Want to discuss your favorite young adult books?  Learn about current publishing trends?  See me looking all nervous and awkward in person?  If you’re in the Dallas area on March 25th, you’re in luck!

The ABCs of YA, Sunday, March 25 2012, 1 PM   Lucky Dog Books  10801 Garland Road, Dallas 75218

Behold my graphic design skillz.

Come to the Writer’s Garret and talk YA with Kristen Dickson and me in a free Writers’ Block about YA.

Click here for all the details.  From the Garret’s website:

Join various members of The Writer’s Garret community for an open discussion of one of the most vibrant genres in publishing today: Young Adult Fiction. Learn about publishing trends, gender and race issues, censorship, and writing for teens and twenty-somethings. We will save time to discuss your favorite books: from contemporary romances, to urban dystopias… and even vampires, werewolves, and magicians.

So, if you’re in the area on Sunday the 25th, we would love for you to join our discussion.  Please don’t make us stand there with no audience.  That would be super awkward indeed.

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The inquiring minds over at YA Highway want to know, and I want to tell you:  the best book I read in February was…

Where Things Come Back


Funny story: on Saturday night, I drank a leeeeetle too much wine, and therefore I woke up at 3am with a headache.  As I was waiting to fall back asleep, I started planning a blog post about Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley.  I mean, it was going to be epic, a review full of literary analysis and deep, critical thinking rather than just my usual “ooh this book was good blah blah blah” deal.

Of course, I’ve completely forgotten what I was going to say.

Lesson here, kids: Drink in moderation.

So, what should I say instead?  I’ll just list five reasons I enjoyed this book instead.

1. It was like revisiting my childhood. There’s a reason that my books are primarily based in Arkansas.  While I no longer live there, I did spend the entirety of my childhood and most of my early adulthood there.  The town names (indeed, even the character names as many of them were named after Arkansas towns) were so familiar that it was like a sort of homecoming.  It’s Central Arkansas, not my home of Northwest Arkansas, where book is set, but there was still so much familiarity for me.  For example, I grew up near the White River, which flows all over the state, and it’s an important location in the book.  There is a passing mention of someone who had died on the White River, and I know someone who died on the White River in almost the exact same way.  So yeah, this book reminded me of home.  I suppose if he had gotten everything wrong, this whole setting it in Arkansas thing would have pissed me off.  He didn’t.

2. As previously established, I am a giant nerd.  I remember a story on NPR about the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, believed to be extinct for decades but possibly sighted in 2004.  Confession time: I was in 4-H when I was little and did not one but TWO year-long projects on the birds of Arkansas.  So this story caught my interest.  And then Sufjan Stevens wrote a song about it.  I love Sufjan Stevens.  He’s twice appeared as #1 on my annual top ten albums list.  He’s on my List.  Seeing his Age of Adz tour helped me throw off a prolonged depression.  Anyway, between being an bird nerd and NPR geek and Sufjan devotee, I was already a nerd about this woodpecker.  And then I listened to the YALSA award ceremony in January, and this book won the freaking Printz Award.  As they were talking about the book, I was like… wait.  That all sounds very familiar!  Turns out that I wasn’t the only NPR-and-Sufjan-loving person with a literary bent.  So I immediately ordered Where Things Come Back.

3. Narrated by a guy!  Don’t get me wrong, I love female narrators, especially in YA books.  I’m still very much a teenager at heart, and I relate well to the young female point of view.  But I love, love, love a well-written guy narrator.  It’s like vacationing in another world.  It’s one reason I’ve started reading more male YA authors – to understand, finally, the psyche of the teenage boy.  Not like it’s a chore to read this book, or one of John Green’s, or anything by Markus Zusak (if he rewrote the phone book, I’d read it).  Those guys can WRITE.

4. Multiple converging storylines.  I won’t say much about this because I’d like you to read the book if you haven’t already.  But there’s so much going on in this book!  Whaley ties most of it together at the end, and he leaves the rest for you to decide for yourself.  That was one of my favorite things about this novel – the fact that some things are left hanging.  The reader is left to imagine how these things will turn out.  It’s clearly intentional, and in my mind, it works really well.  A lot of authors try this, and many are not as successful as Whaley is here.

5. He done wrote it good.  So, this is where I try to reconstruct my drunken musings while my grasp of the English language fails me.  It’s amazing how much more coherent you are at 3am with a splitting headache.  Anyway, there’s religion, mysticism, and mystery throughout this book, and it’s almost taken for granted.  Those things just exist in the world of Where Things Come Back.  It’s kind of like magical realism without the actual magic.  It’s a sense of things being larger than you – larger than these small-town characters and their town.  Also, it’s quite a literary book, with multiple forms of narration and devices and symbolism and themes and everything, while still remaining a fun and entertaining read.  Gah.  I’m not doing a very good job of conveying my thoughts.  So… yeah.  There’s a lot going on in this book, many layers, and I’m left thinking about it days after I finished it.

So, in summary, yay Arkansas, yay birds, yay Where Things Come Back!  John Corey Whaley, I am eagerly awaiting your next book.

What was your favorite February read?  Join YA Highway’s Road Trip Wednesday blog carnival and spread the YAngelism!

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I’ve been planning a year-end favorite books list, and that happens to be YA Highway’s Road Trip Wednesday topic this week. I’m separating my list into two sections, because I haven’t read and loved that many books that were published in 2011. I’m including favorite non-2011 books I’ve read this year too. These are in no particular order, they’re not just young adult, and I’ve probably forgotten a ton. Anyway, here we go:

Published in 2011:

Daughter of Smoke and Bone – Laini Taylor. This was a Forever Young Adult book club selection, and man am I glad they chose it! This book had exotic locales, intricate world-building, a badass heroine, and a new book boyfriend for me. I am eagerly awaiting the sequel, because she ended the book with a huge cliffhanger.

Divergent – Veronica Roth. I was so impressed by this debut novel. Most of the things I said about Daughter of Smoke and Bone apply here as well. Great characters and world-building, fast-paced, plot-driven, and just all-around fantastic.


What Happened to Goodbye – Sarah Dessen. I love Sarah Dessen’s writing, and this book did not disappoint. Her characters are always so real, and that’s refreshing in a genre full of dystopias, impossibly rich girls, supernatural beings, etc.

The Name of the Star – Maureen Johnson. Speaking of supernatural beings, Maureen Johnson’s latest is a thriller set in a present-day London gripped by copycat Jack the Ripper murders. Maureen Johnson’s books always start a little slow for me, but I’m totally hooked by the end.

New to me:

Will Grayson, Will Grayson – John Green and David Levithan. Good Lord. This book made me laugh and cry and insist that everyone I know read it. It made me go on a John Green-reading spree. It eventually made me a nerdfighter. Read. This. Book!

Jellicoe Road – Melina Marchetta. This book is super confusing at first, and as the mystery unravels, you find yourself never wanting it to end. I gobbled up a bunch of Melina Marchetta’s books after I read this. It’s a shame she isn’t more widely-known here in the US.

Little Bee – Chris Cleave. This came highly recommended by several of my friends. Chris Cleave writes in two distinct female voices here, and his prose is beautiful. A fantastic novel with numerous plot twists, this book really stuck with me long after I finished it.

Anna and the French Kiss – Stephanie Perkins. I read this while in Paris over Thanksgiving (how fitting!). I was struggling through writing my NaNo novel for adults, and this delightful book reminded me why I love the YA genre so much.

This is Where I Leave You – Jonathan Topper. Hilarious and heartbreaking. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys funny, contemporary family drama. Also, one of the best covers I’ve seen this year (which is the reason I picked this up in the first place).

The Likeness – Tana French. I enjoyed In the Woods, but this sequel seemed much stronger to me. It has been compared to another of my favorites, Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, and like that novel, I wanted to inhabit French’s book.

Flowers from the Storm – Laura Kinsale. So, my mother suggested I read this, and as an equal-opportunity reader, I did. This is one of the most unconventional romance novels I’ve ever read. A couple of my friends have also read and loved it. Give it a chance… you will be surprised.

What did you love reading this year?

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It’s been a while, hasn’t it?  What have I been up to lately that has kept me from blogging?

Decorating and Cleaning

Our house is a flurry of activity these days.  Last week, a handyman came fix a few things, and today there were electricians and painters galore.  We’re having all of the wood on the outside of our house sanded, primed, and painted, so that it will be fresh and cheery for potential buyers!  We also had some work done on the outdoor electricity, making sure all of our floodlights and landscape features were working properly.

This weekend is Landscaping Part II.  We already cleared out the flowerbeds in the front of the house, and now it’s time to tackle the back.  I’m pleased that some of our perennials are popping up already, and I’m planning to buy some sweet potato vines, pansies, and other pretty things to beautify the yard.

We’ve also started the Giant Culling of 2010.  I weeded through my closet and found a mountain of clothes and shoes to donate.  We’ve got a few things of mine and a ton of Victor’s to take to consignment shops.  I pulled some books out of my library to either sell or donate, whichever works.  We went through our junk drawer, which was – surprise! – full of junk.  We’ve earmarked a TV + entertainment console for craigslist, and we bought a bunch of bins to store unnecessary clutter until we move.

I rearranged the library and found that we have an American Foreign Policy section.  Who knew?  And that brings us to…


So, I read Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan, and it was freaking amazing.  Since then, two other friends have read it and another has started it.  I’m on a quest to get everyone to read this book (right after they read The Book Thief, of course). 

Flying Changes by Sara Gruen was just as good as the first book in that series, Riding Lessons. Her books always feel so homey, and I never want them to end.  Civil and Strange by Cláir Ní Aonghusa took a long time to read, but eventually it felt homey too, and it strengthened my resolve to retire to the Irish countryside.

I also read This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper, and I loved it so much that Victor read it (he doesn’t read many novels).  He loved it too.  Incidentally, Victor would like to retire to the coast of Mexico, so I wonder how we’re going to juggle two homes on two continents…

For the Back to the Classics Challenge (which has been extended until December!), I’m chugging along.  My results so far:

  1. A Banned Book
  2. A Book with a Wartime Setting (can be any war)  Currently reading Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  3. A Pulitzer Prize (Fiction) Winner or Runner Up
  4. A Children’s/Young Adult Classic  I read The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  5. 19th Century Classic
  6. 20th Century Classic
  7. A Book you think should be considered a 21st Century Classic  I read Little Bee by Chris Cleave
  8. Re-Read a book from your High School/College Classes

(By the way, I mentioned reading Little Bee for this challenge on Twitter, and Chris Cleave tweeted at me!  I’m famous!  Kristen helped out a little with that, so she’s famous now too!)

So, reading’s been going pretty well, especially considering how little free time I’ve had lately.  Which brings us to…



I have not been doing well on the writing front.  I keep having great ideas, but somehow they refuse to leave my brain and enter the computer.  I have done some research on agents and query letters and while that’s great, you can’t send out an unfinished manuscript and waaah!  Flail!

I am just not in the right place to be creative right now, I think.  It will come eventually.  In the meantime, I’ll just keep jotting down my ideas and notes in Scrivener, and I’ll get there somehow.  Anyone who wants to send some writing mojo my way, please feel free.

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girl on fire

MockingjayIf you’ve got a friend who is into young adult literature, then they’re probably reading this book right now.  Or they’ve already finished it.  I bought it on Tuesday, the day it was released, and I’m about halfway through.

It’s kind of killing me not to read it all in one sitting, but since it’s the last of the Hunger Games series, I’m trying to go slow and savor it.  Suzanne Collins is one of my writing heroes.  The books in this trilogy well-written, have a captivating heroine (who is such a fighter, a survivor, and she messes up all the time, like good heroines should), and there’s enough romance and humor sprinkled amongst the tension, heartbreak, and violence that this dystopia isn’t completely without hope.

Since I’m reading so slowly (for me, anyway), I’m having to skip posts from one of my favorite blogs, Forever Young Adult, because they’re doing a read-along discussion, and I think they’re probably reading faster than I am.

On a side note, my friend Kristen is blogging now, and she’s just recently started the Hunger Games books.  And if you haven’t read them yet, stop reading this post and go get them.  Seriously.

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