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Young Adult

Julie Kagawa's Recommended Teen Reads

TalonThe author of The Iron Fey and Blood of Eden series and most recently Talon shares the books she's been most excited about in 2014.

The life of an author is a busy one. Some may envision writers having tons of free time to relax and kick back with a good book, but truthfully, the only book I'm reading these days is my own as I'm typing it on the computer. I have very little time to sit down and read, but that doesn't mean I don't get excited about books. Here are the books that I tell myself I'm going to read if I ever get a moment...

Breaking the Rules by Katie McGarry Okay, I lied. I have read this one, but it technically isn't even out yet. (One of the perks of being friends with the author and living in the same town.) Breaking the Rules is the continuation of Echo and Noah's story from Pushing the Limits. I love these two characters, and their story is even more wonderful and heartbreaking in Breaking the Rules.

Let's Get Lost by Adi Alsaid Let's Get Lost is a road-trip story that sounds like a lot of fun. It’s the perfect book for traveling this holiday season; I think I'll take it with me on the long drive up to the in-laws’ place.

Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor If I could just have an uninterrupted afternoon, this is the book I would grab first. I've been dying to finish Karou and Akiva's story ever since Days of Blood & Starlight. They're the couple that makes me sigh and melt into a swooning puddle of goo. With the huge amount of obstacles they face, it'll be hard for them to get their happy ending, but I'm crossing my fingers for them.

White Hot Kiss and Stone Cold Touch by Jennifer L. Armentrout Confession: I have not yet read any of Jennifer's books. I know, it's shameful. I intend to remedy that soon, and when that day comes, I'll start with this series. I mean, no-brainer, it features gargoyles and demons—mortal enemies—and a girl who is both!

The Fall by Bethany Griffin I love Poe and creepy ghost tales, and The Fall of the House of Usher was a story that haunted me as a kid. I can't wait to see this story told from Madeline Usher's point of view.

Lisa Mantchev: "It Started with a Pocket Watch"

TickerLisa Mantchev discusses how a random discovery and a love of steampunk inspired Ticker, her new novel.

It started with a pocket watch: an actual, physical pocket watch that I found on eBay in 2008 while looking for brass bits. At the time, I was writing and editing theater books. All my excess nervous energy I channeled into a new costuming aesthetic that was popping up at the science fiction and fantasy conventions I attended.

Bustle skirts? Corsets? Goggles and gadgets? Count me in.

But when I discovered that particular pocket watch on eBay—a watch that contained a compass and sundial instead of a traditional timepiece—my writer-brain took over.

Who would have owned such a thing?

Where would he or she have traveled with it?

And, of course, what kind of cake did they have when they got there?

This was my chance to wallow in the words of Jules Verne, to reboard the Nautilus and venture once more Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. To punch dates into H.G. Wells’s Time Machine. To reacquaint myself with Tik-Tok from the Land of Oz books. To take tea with Stoker and Shelley, then throw myself headlong into worlds lit by gas lamps and populated by the lords and ladies, spies and saboteurs which now feature prominently in young adult work by authors such as Gail Carriger (the Parasol Protectorate series and Finishing School series,) Kady Cross (the Steampunk Chronicles) and Tiffany Trent (the Unnaturalists novels).

And because steampunk is as much a rich and varied maker-movement as it is a literary genre, I was similarly inspired by the music of Professor Elemental, Abney Park, Steam Powered Giraffe, and Emilie Autumn. I admired the technological artwork of artisans like Richard Nagy (Datamancer) and the vibrant, glorious couture produced by Kato. I reveled in movies like Hellboy II: The Golden Army, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and Hayao Miyazaki's anime Howl’s Moving Castle. I rejoiced over the brilliance of comics like Girl Genius.

Because that is the beauty of steampunk: it is a creative garden that defies definition and cannot be contained by convention. It will continue to break through the fences, burgeoning into exotic jungles through which we must crash, wearing pith helmets, and carrying our pocket watches… which secretly contain sundials and compasses, so that we might (eventually) find our way home.

Ticker is a Kindle First Pick during the month of November. The book is free for Prime members and $1.99 for non-Prime members.

Romantic Ruminations from Amy Engel, "The Book of Ivy" Author

BookofivyAmy Engel discussess the backstory--and complicated relationship--of the two main characters in The Book of Ivy, out on November 11.

True love is friendship set on fire.

It took me a long time to figure out what romantic love actually is, how it really works. As a teenager, I wasn’t exactly knocking over boys with my charm. I was quiet, introverted, self-conscious. I had a series of crushes that never really panned out. Later, in college, I gained confidence and dated a string of not-quite-right guys, was even hopelessly, stupidly in lust with a few of them. But there was always something off.

I have very clear memories of dates where I felt like I was standing outside my body, coaching myself on how to act, when to laugh, what to ask next. The entire process was exhausting and disappointing. I wondered if it would always be so difficult. And then I met the man who would one day become my husband.

 I was 26 years old and working as an attorney. I met Brian his first day at the firm when we shared an elevator. I remember the moment distinctly, down to the exact outfit I was wearing and the smile he gave me when we shook hands, which is weird because at the time I thought Oh, he’s handsome, but that was about it. I was focused on my career, and definitely not looking to date someone I worked with. And then a few weeks later, on a Friday afternoon, we were the only two people sitting in the office library and we started to talk. We talked. And talked. To be honest, I don’t really remember about what (although Brian swears I asked him his political affiliation within the first thirty minutes).

By the end of that afternoon, I was ridiculously smitten. I had butterflies in my stomach to such a degree that I walked back to my office feeling vaguely nauseous (in a good way). But beyond the attraction, I genuinely, down-to-my-core, really liked this man. And I realized that’s what had been missing with all the guys before. Desire is important; it’s vital. But so is friendship, the ability to be yourself, in all your weird, honest, raw glory. Love needs both to survive.

So when I set out to write The Book of Ivy, I knew that I wanted the romance between Ivy and Bishop to involve more than lust and desire. It had to involve true friendship as well. And that type of relationship actually worked perfectly with the plot of the book. Ivy is forced to marry Bishop, a boy she doesn’t know. But she is not simply his wife; she has been coached to gain his trust, gather his family’s secrets, and then kill him in order to restore her own family to power. If all Ivy feels for Bishop is attraction, she can work around that--ignore it, smother it, even act on it--and still attain her goal. The problem lies in the fact that gradually, and almost against her will, Ivy begins to like Bishop. She likes the way he listens to her. She likes his calmness, his patience, his view of the world. And that is the one thing she absolutely cannot do. Liking Bishop is more dangerous to Ivy than anything else, because how can she kill a boy she likes, one who she is slowly coming to love?

Rysa Walker, "Time's Edge" Author, on Her Time Travel Favorites

TimesedgeRysa Walker, author of Timebound and the new follow-up Time’s Edge, discusses her passion for time travel novels and recommends a few of her favorites.

When I read, I want to experience things I've never seen, could never see, and might not want to see even if I could. Science fiction, fantasy, historical fiction, horror—those are the books that jump off the shelves and into my hands. Contemporary slice-of-life need not apply.

Time travel covers multiple bases for me which is why I'm drawn to the genre as an author.  Writing Timebound and Time's Edge, the first and second book in the CHRONOS Files series, gave me a chance to combine a splash of historical fiction with a healthy dollop of sci-fi and roll it all together. 

Sadly, I've had to avoid time travel stories since I began writing the CHRONOS Files, simply because I don't want tesseracts, time-turners, or DeLoreans sneaking into my scenes. But here are a few pre-Timebound favorites that grabbed my imagination and landed on my re-read and recommend list:

Bid Time Return by Richard Matheson My very first time travel book, I checked this out from the library in my early teens. No one else got a crack at it for months because I selfishly hoarded it. I later learned it was reissued as Somewhere in Time in 1980 and won a World Fantasy Award in 1976. All I knew back then was it made me cry buckets. 

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer didn't interest me. I grew up in the Deep South, and they were too much like kids I knew. Still, their presence on mandatory reading lists led me to this snarky bit of social commentary in a time travel wrapper. And this book pointed me toward Letters from the Earth. Those two alone earned Twain a spot on my list of favorite writers.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle A trip through the tesseract is Time Travel 101 for many kids but I didn't stumble upon this series until my late teens. I wish I had found it sooner as it might have helped me weather the conformity of high school.  

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling Hogwarts and time travel?? Yes, please.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver Most readers know Lauren Oliver for her Delirium series. I liked those books but I absolutely loved this earlier standalone that reminded me a bit of the movie Groundhog Day. You can't help but pull for Samantha as she struggles again and again to finally get a critical day right.

Guest Post: Alexandra Bracken, Author of “In the Afterlight”

AfterlightAlexandra Bracken discusses the importance of music in the Darkest Minds series. The final book in the trilogy, In The Afterlight, is out on October 28.

I’ll be the first to admit that the Darkest Minds series is made up of unlikely parts.

It was the product of circumstance, really. I had just moved to New York City after graduating from college and was unprepared for how rough of an adjustment it would be. That’s a polite way of saying that I hated it. My first job left me silently crying in a bathroom stall at least twice a week, I was horribly homesick, and I was subsisting on ramen noodles six days out of seven. If you’re thinking to yourself, Wow, this girl didn’t have an ounce of emotional grit…you are exactly right.

As a survival tactic, I coped by escaping into writing a story I filled to the brim with things I love: sci-fi, road trips, old minivans, teenagers with super powers, the state of Virginia, Waffle House, impossible romance, a “found family” of friends, and classic rock.

Would it surprise you to find out that, of everything element in the series, I get asked the most about the classic rock?

Throughout the books, you’ll find references to songs and bands from the 1960s and 1970s serving as a soundtrack to different scenes, starting with the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter.” We move through some fine Led Zeppelin selections, the Animals’ “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” and Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young.” Some are mentioned by names, some are merely snippets of lyrics, but all were chosen for a reason.

There are number of layers to this. The first was that it was a world-building choice. The series is set in an America in which 98% of the under-eighteen population has died… meaning there just aren’t these young bands to create new music. The economy is shot, so even there’s a business around to produce and package the music, the customer pool is incredibly shallow. And, truthfully, in hard times I think we tend to turn to the comforting, the familiar, to feel something is stable.

More importantly, though, the majority of the songs referenced were written in direct response to times of political, social, and economic strife. They’re protests, accusations, and calls to action, many of which have lost some of their teeth forty years removed from the events on which they’re commenting. A younger generation reading the book might not know the back story that ties them to the Vietnam War, for example, but they’ve become classic because they are universal, and the struggles they depict are ongoing. They even apply to a fictional version of America that’s been ravaged by tragedy, poverty, and fear.

Then, there are the personal reasons: my own parents raised me on a steady diet of the good stuff. We debated bands on long car rides and were woken up by my dad blasting the Moody Blues’ greatest hits every weekend. There’s a feeling I’m always trying to capture, the one that comes when your favorite song is suddenly on the radio and you crank it up. The sunlight is streaming in through the windshield and you’re singing and singing and singing along. One character proudly declares the Allman Brothers’ “Ramblin’ Man” is “the music of [his] soul,” not because it describes his life, but because he’s chasing the feelin--that all-consuming, lifting feeling that comes with hearing it.

And, as much as the book is about teens with dangerous superpowers, let’s face it: the Darkest Minds series is also one epic cross-country road trip, and no ride is complete without a good set of tunes.

Lois Duncan: Why I Write Horror

Twisted_WindowIn anticipation of Halloween, Lois Duncan revisits the inspirations behind her horror thrillers including The Twisted Window, Gallows Hill, and more.

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t plan to be a writer. I started submitting stories to magazines when I was 10, painstakingly pecking them out on my mother’s manual typewriter, and at age 13 I actually started selling them. When I was 20, I wrote my first full-length book, a sweet romance titled Debutante Hill. It was by necessity a young adult novel, because what did I know to write about other than teenage issues that reflected my protected childhood? That book was published and won a national award, and without any conscious intention for it to happen, I found myself a “niche writer,” known for her gentle love stories.

However, the time soon came when I found that restriction boring. I had outgrown my niche, but I didn’t know how to get out of it. I began to take cautious risks, like placing my characters in dangerous situations and then extracting them safely with a platonic kiss at the end. My publisher was not happy with my changing what was then considered the “established formula” for my youth books. So I found another publisher, one who would let me write mysteries as long as they weren’t “edgy.”

But I wanted to be edgy. I kept pushing beyond my limits, with scarier situations and more sophisticated plotting. So again I had to change publishers. But now I was having fun and kept on pushing, and suddenly—overnight, it seemed, although it had been many years coming—I found myself being described as “Lois Duncan, the Matriarch of Young Adult Horror and the Macabre.”

Here was I, gentle, grocery-shopping, laundry-running, mother-of-five, revealed to the world as a woman with a terrifying dark side! My husband and children were stunned, but I was delighted. Writing was now not only my career and my passion; it was a game. With every new novel I tried experimenting with something different. In Killing Mr. Griffin, my protagonist was a teenage psychopath. With I Know What You Did Last Summer, I used a double-identity twist, (which worked well in the book but was omitted from the movie). The theme of Stranger With My Face was astral projection; Gallows Hill was based upon reincarnation; and Down a Dark Hall, (soon to be a major motion picture), was a ghost story.

But probably the most challenging story I ever tackled was The Twisted Window. This was an experiment with viewpoint, inspired by the fact that witnesses to a crime will appear in court and convincingly describe very different recollections. It occurred to me that the same is true of readers. They are totally influenced by the statements of the viewpoint character. But what if there were two viewpoint characters, and each saw the same thing and interpreted it differently? Would it be possible to keep spinning the reader’s responses to events in the story to coincide with opposing beliefs of each viewpoint character? It would be like gazing at the same scene through a twisted window so that things appeared one way and then abruptly appeared otherwise.

That is the reason The Twisted Window has been classified as a “horror book.” There’s no violence, no gore, no multi-fanged vampire. In fact, there’s not even a villain. The horror is the fact that readers have to keep switching their beliefs from chapter to chapter.         

Such crazy-making can be the greatest horror of all.

Gena Showalter's Recommended Halloween Reading

ZombieheartsGena Showalter introduces her latest book, The Queen of Zombie Hearts, and shares what's on her Halloween reading list.

I didn’t have Halloween in mind when I started writing Alice in Zombieland or its sequel Through the Zombie Glass—I was actually inspired by Lewis Carroll’s classics Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass—but my publisher and I agreed that October would be the perfect month to launch each new title, and I’m beyond thrilled to complete the trilogy this month with the release of The Queen of Zombie Hearts. My zombie-slaying heroine, Ali Bell, and her crew of slayers are ready to get you into the “spirit” of the season (hint, new twist on zombies, hint). I hope you enjoy falling down the zombie hole with Ali, her sometimes Cheshire-like best friend, Kat Parker, and my own secret, favorite crush, Cole Holland, who at times might just seem a little bit mad. 

The Arcana Chronicles by Kresley Cole—Poison Princess and Endless Knight: Apocalypse now, baby! The end of the world has come, and the teenage embodiments of the Arcana cards must fight to the death…because only one can survive. 

They All Fall Down by Roxanne St. Claire: Murder and mayhem: All the girls at Vienna High dream of getting on “the list,” where the hottest girls in the school are named. But this year, if you’re on the list…your life ends.

See Me by Wendy Higgins: A fantastical world of leprechauns, fae, and human magic. A modern day teenage girl must come to grips with an arranged marriage to a handsome Irish boy, but as things start to go her way, she’ll realize some things aren’t what they appear to be.

Ghost House by Alexandra Adornetto: I haven’t had a chance to read this book yet. But what embodies Halloween better than an eerie, romantic tale with touches of horror featuring a girl haunted by ghosts and a 157-year-old tragedy involving an intriguing young man who is long dead?

The White Rabbit Chronicles by me: If I don’t like my own books, I shouldn’t be writing. Alice in Zombieland, Through the Zombie Glass, and The Queen of Zombie Hearts tell the story of Alice “Ali” Bell, who learns through a terrible tragedy that the invisible monsters her father always raged about are real—and she was born to slay them.  

Sneak Peek: "The Accidental Highwayman"

Ben Tripp makes his YA debut with The Accidental Highwayman, a whimsical fantasy set in eighteenth-century England. After a series of random events unfold, Christopher “Kit” Bristol, embarks on a quest to save a fairy princess from an arranged marriage to King George III of England--only to encounter a series of fantastical obstacles (think goblins, princesses, and a magical map) along the way. The book, out on October 14, is filled with Tripp's illustrations, several of which he has shared here.


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Guest Post: Shane Burcaw, Author of "Laughing at My Nightmare"

LaughingatmynightmareShane Burcaw became a Tumblr sensation by chronicling his life with spinal muscular atrophy on his blog, Laughing at My Nightmare. His warts-and-all-style earned him more than half a million fans. His memoir, also called Laughing at My Nightmare, is out on October 14.

If I had to choose a theme for my upcoming memoir, Laughing at My Nightmare, it would be the absurdity of living with my disability. I was born with a disease called spinal muscular atrophy, and it has been making life pretty ridiculous since I was a baby.

I got my first wheelchair at the age of three, and my favorite activity quickly became crashing into walls at full speed. Looking back, it seems silly, but at least my favorite activity wasn’t running people over or trying to drive down flights of stairs.

The wheelchair gave me incredible freedom, and, naturally, I used this freedom to get into trouble. Driving through dog poop became a new source of joy, (God, I was weird) which is a mostly harmless behavior until I came inside and drove those poop-covered wheels across the white rug in our living room. Mom was not pleased.

As I grew up, my interests turned to sports, which was not the best combination for a severely disabled boy with no regard for his own safety. My friends and I found ways to involve my wheelchair in every sport we played, often at the expense of their personal well-being. Do you know what it feels like to be tackled by a 400-pound wheelchair? My friends unfortunately do.

In school I grappled with the constant pressure to fit in, as most kids do, but my desire to be seen as “normal” despite my disability caused me to go to some extreme lengths that make me cringe today. I tried to be a hardcore skateboarder thug in middle school, grew my hair out, and held on to that identity until I finally accepted that the drug-taking, rule-breaking, hygiene-ignoring lifestyle just wasn’t for me.

Life became more serious in high school as I began to seriously contemplate the realities of my disease. I am constantly getting weaker—arms, legs, neck, jaw, lungs, throat, the whole shebang. I realized I probably would not live a full life when every tiny head cold put me in the hospital for a week. This is when I began to develop the mindset that would help me become the person I am today: the idea that laughter and positivity are powerful weapons against adversity.

In college, I began blogging about this topic, telling stories about breaking my femur and peeing in my pants and falling in love. To my complete surprise, the world enjoyed what I had to say! In a whirlwind adventure that is still taking place as I write this, my blog grew to over half a million readers, I started my own nonprofit organization, I got a book deal, and I even had a few serious relationships with actual human females!

You can read about all of that in my book, and lots of it probably won’t seem like real life. As you read, just know that I have been feeling the same disbelief every step of the way (every roll of the way?).

Life is crazy and it’s beautiful and it’s awesome, and I can’t wait to share mine with you. 

 

When the Whole School Reads "The Truth about Truman School"

Truman_schoolIn celebration of National Bullying Prevention Month, Edgar Award–winning author Dori Hillestad Butler discusses her anti-bullying school visit program.

My book, The Truth about Truman School, is a story of middle school cyberbullying as seen through the eyes of the bully, the bullied, and the bystanders. I’m proud of this book because there aren’t many books for fifth–eighth graders that look at bullying from multiple points of view, but I’m especially proud of the school visit program I offer to schools that have done all-grade or all-school reads of this book.

It started with a school in Colorado. A counselor there wrote to tell me her school had a cyberbullying problem. But she’d read my book and she wanted the whole school to read it. And then she wanted me to visit the school, do a presentation, and lead some discussion groups.

So I did. I talked about the book, how I came to be an author, my writing process, and cyberbullying in general. It was great!

Over the next year, I visited four or five other schools.

Then came the school in Missouri. There was something different about this school. It’s not that the kids were inattentive. In some ways, they were more attentive than other kids. But I had a pretty interactive program and these kids weren’t interacting.

I found out later that a girl at the other middle school in town had recently committed suicide. And she’d been cyberbullied. As an author going into that school to talk about cyberbullying, it would’ve been helpful to know that before my presentation.

I had one more visit planned for that year. I didn’t want to be caught unaware again, so I sent ahead a survey for the kids. I asked them what kinds of bullying situations they’d experienced and observed at their school. Then I graphed the responses and made them part of my presentation.

This turned out to be a pretty incredible school visit. Not only did sending the survey ahead of time show me what I was going into, I think it contributed to a deeper visit overall. I wasn’t just talking to the kids about cyberbullying in the abstract. I’d found a way to make the subject personal. And the data I collected was also useful to the teachers and administrators. So I continued doing the survey.

Then came the school in Maryland. When I shared their survey results, the kids started clapping. That had never happened before.

I waited for one of the teachers to say or do something. But no one did. I eventually stopped and asked, “Why are you all clapping?” A boy responded, “Because those numbers are really good.”

Honestly, the numbers were “good.” There weren’t a lot of kids in that school who were being bullied. But the cheering still made me uncomfortable. So I said, “I see. Most of you are feeling really proud of your school right now.” Nods all around.

Then I said, “Well . . . that’s great if you’re part of the 70% who have never been bullied. But what about the 4% who say they’re bullied every day? How do you suppose those kids feel when they hear all this clapping?”

Silence.

I let that silence hang there . . . until one brave girl slowly raised her hand. She said, “I’m not proud. Because if there’s even one kid who gets bullied at our school, that’s one too many.”

That was the moment I knew I had reached those kids. It was one of the best moments I’ve ever had in a school.