A site dedicated to book lovers providing a forum to discover and share commentary about the books and authors they enjoy. Author interviews, book reviews and lively book commentary are found here. Content includes books from bestselling, midlist and debut authors.
Historical fiction allows you, the reader, to travel back in time from the safety of your couch, subway seat or other favorite reading spot. Today on Teenreads we had the chance to talk to two young adult authors who write incredible and rich historical fiction. Firstly, Maureen Doyle McQuerry is the author of BETWEEN BEFORE AND AFTER, a dual-perspective novel where 14-year-old Molly worries about school, friends and her parents’ failed marriage, but mostly about her mother, Elaine, and her growing depression, leading her on an adventure where she discovers the impact the flu pandemic of 1918 had on her family. Secondly, we talked to Stephanie Morrill, who wrote WITHIN THESE LINES, where Evalina Cassano’s life in an Italian-American family living in San Francisco in 1941 is ordinary until she falls in love with Taichi Hamasaki, the son of Japanese immigrants, at a time when inter-racial marriage is illegal in California and Taichi and his family are forced to move to a Japanese-American internment camp. Both authors have written complex, deeply research stories about love, family and American history. Keep reading to see what they had to say about mental health representation, their characters and more.
Teenreads.com: We’re so thrilled to be speaking with two young adult historical fiction authors today! We have Maureen McQuerry, author of BETWEEN BEFORE AND AFTER, and Stephanie Morrill, author of WITHIN THESE LINES. To get us started, could you each introduce your main characters and describe the time periods they live in?
Maureen Doyle McQuery: Elaine Fitzgerald lives in an Irish immigrant neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York in 1919. Her mother and younger sister die in the Spanish Flu pandemic, her father succumbs to alcoholism and Elaine must care for herself and her younger brother Stephen. The early nineteen hundreds were a tumultuous time, World War I ended in November of 1918 just as the flu pandemic swept through the U.S. Thousands of immigrants flooded major cities. They arrived poor, desperate and hoping for a better life. Elaine’s family was one of them.
Molly Donnelly is Elaine’s daughter. She and her younger brother Angus, live with their mother in 1955 San Jose, CA. The fifties were also a time of change. World War II ended in 1945. Soldiers came home, started families and moved to newly formed suburbs to pursue the American Dream. Men’s and women’s roles were clearly defined. More than anything Molly wants to fit in, but her family didn’t fit the mold, a reclusive, single, working mother and an uncle who performs a miracle make it difficult not to stand out. And then there’s a family secret that shows up on their doorstep.
Stephanie Morrill: My main characters are Evalina Cassano, an Italian-American girl who is passionate about social justice, and Taichi Hamasaki, a Japanese-American boy, who cares deeply about doing the right thing and honoring his family. They live in San Francisco and the story takes place right after Japan bombed pearl harbor and deals with the chaos involved as Taichi’s family is sent to Manzanar War Relocation Center.
TRC: Both of your books take place during pretty tumultuous times --- the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic and World War II. Can you explain what drew you to these divisive moments as the settings for your stories?
MDM: I have a family connection to the flu pandemic of 1918. My grandmother died in the pandemic and father, who was 10, became homeless. His stories gave me the seeds for BEFORE BETWEEN AND AFTER. I was also interested in how one event could change the trajectory of not only one family, but of generations. 600,000 people in the U.S. died during the flu pandemic. That’s more than died in World War I. The impact on families continues today.
SM: I really wanted to talk about the incarceration of Japanese-Americans and the blatant racism involved in that decision, seeing as the majority of Americans of Italian and German descent were allowed to carry on as normal. Italian and German Americans certainly faced prejudice of their own during the war, but not the wide scale evacuation like the Japanese-Americans.
TRC: Now that we’ve set the stage a little bit, I have a few questions for each of you. Maureen, your book is told in dual narratives alternating between 1918 New York City and 1955 San Jose, California. Can you tell us why you chose this format? How did you pace each story in a way that allowed them to coexist and inform one another?
MDM: Alternating the two storylines was one of the greatest challenges in writing BBA. Molly’s story spans one summer while Elaine’s story spans years. It was tricky to know when to cut from one timeline to another, and I did a lot of moving scenes around to try to make it work. I kept Molly’s voice in first person so that it would be more immediate. I used third person for Elaine because I needed to cover a span of years.
We’re all shaped by the culture, time period and critical events of our childhood. I wanted to show how the events and the culture of the early 1900’s contributed to who Elaine became. Elaine’s family trauma and determination to survive also shaped the woman and mother she became.
Molly is a child of the 1950’s and her family situation is very different than her mother’s was at the same age. But she is also searching and longing for a more connected family. It was important that the two story lines come together in the end, the past arriving to change and redeem the present. Both Elaine and Molly realize that their own stories will keep changing and the ending can’t always be predicted from the beginning.
TRC: BETWEEN BEFORE AND AFTER is a work of historical fiction, and the timing does inform the narrative, but at the heart of your book exists a really strong mother-daughter theme that transcends time. Molly’s mother, Elaine, is battling depression and has shut herself off from most human connections, including Molly and her brother. When Molly starts to find clues about a big family secret, she thinks it might help save her mother and their family. Can you tell us a bit about their dynamic?
MDM: As teens, both Molly and Elaine struggle to save their families. The adult Elaine is distant, preoccupied and emotionally unavailable as a result of past trauma, but also as a result of guilt. Molly knows her family is full of secrets and doesn’t know how to find the answers. Like many mother and daughters, Elaine and Molly, long to be close, but don’t know how to talk about difficult subjects. I wanted the reader to realize how similar Elaine and Molly are when faced with challenges. They are both curious, determined, driven, but neither of them recognizes their similarities until the final third of the book. The reader will, long before that.
Their relationship changes as secrets are revealed and Elaine comes to terms with past choices. But change in people happens slowly. As Molly says, “there was a loosening in Mom, like a sliver of ice had melted, changing the shape of her interior landscape in ways that were only beginning.” I like to think their story ends with hope, “light seeping in through the cracks.”
TRC: It’s no secret that mental illness is still stigmatized in our country, but the situation has definitely improved. Can you tell us a bit about how you wrote Elaine’s depression? Did you have to be careful to avoid certain phrases or reactions that might seem anachronistic given the time period?
MDM: One phrase I avoided was the label PTSD. Many flu orphans, especially those who were forced to survive on their own, later displayed symptoms of what we now call Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. In the early 1900’s there were few social safety nets. Orphanages were overcrowded and often poorly run. Class distinctions between the flood of struggling immigrants and established wealthy families made the situation worse.
Elaine as an adult, exhibits signs of depression fueled by PTSD, but her struggles are never labeled. In the 1950’s mental illnesses including depression, PTSD and alcoholism were family secrets and rarely addressed. They were the elephant in the room. Molly is ashamed of her mother’s behavior as much as she is frightened by it, and she longs for a whole family, but she’s never really able to talk about it even with her uncle, the most stable adult in her life.
As I was writing BETWEEN BEFORE AND AFTER, I was very aware of current resiliency studies. The studies ask why some people flourish despite early trauma while other don’t. Two of the many findings that build resiliency are: having one stable, caring adult in a child’s life and the belief that we are not victims of our circumstances, but that we have the power to change them. I tried to write those two truths into Elaine and Molly’s stories.
TRC: Now onto Stephanie, whose book, WITHIN THESE LINES, is set during World War II, just after the attack on Pearl Harbor. What really sets your book apart is that it focuses on two children of immigrants, Evalina, an Italian-American and Taichi, a Japanese-American. Their story kicks off when Taichi is sent to an internment camp, and Evalina becomes vocal about the injustice of it all. Can you tell us a bit about their love story?
SM: When I first had the idea for WITHIN THESE LINES, I didn’t realize that interracial marriage was actually illegal in California at the time. That broke my heart! I knew Evalina and Taichi would need to be strong characters to be defying not just family and societal expectations, but to ultimately intend to break state law in order to be together. But I also wanted to show that strength looks different on each person, so Evalina is outspoken and passionate while Taichi is more the type to quietly do the right thing even at great personal cost.
TRC: One interesting thing about Taichi’s experience in the internment camp is that it is not just anti-Japanese sentiments making him feel unsafe, but also tensions within the camp. Can you tell us more about his experience? What kind of research did you have to do to really “get inside” these sorts of camps?
SM: On top of reading multiple memoirs written by Japanese-Americans who lived in Manzanar, for a while I pretty much lived on the Densho Encyclopedia website. It’s a fantastic compilation of oral histories and original source documents from the evacuation. I was also fortunate enough to have a park ranger from Manzanar read the manuscript and help me get as accurate as I could with the camp’s very complex history.
Understandably, there were people within the camps who felt like they shouldn’t just go along with the evacuation but should speak out. And that if America was going to treat them like enemies, they would rather live freely in Japan. On the other side, many Japanese Americans believed cooperating with the U.S. government was the best way to show that they were 100 percent loyal to their country. And many fell between those two perspectives as well, I’m sure.
Both of these perspectives made a lot of sense to me, and I hope that comes through in the story even though Taichi chooses to side with those who cooperate.
TRC: Much like BETWEEN BEFORE AND AFTER, your book also contains themes that will speak to modern readers while still reflecting the divide in America during World War II. What do you hope readers will take away from the racial injustices and social justice efforts that take place in WITHIN THESE LINES?
SM: There’s a line in the book when Evalina overhears a family friend saying that she’s in favor of the evacuation because “why risk it?” Evalina thinks, “This kind of thinking—that the theoretical risk to our safety is worth the sacrifice of their actual freedom—is why Taichi’s uncle was taken away to prison camp for merely being a fisherman.”
So much of what we hear from politicians and opinionated news sources is rhetoric designed to evoke fear. Fear is such a powerful motivator. I would love if this book caused people to become more curious about their fears and ask why they’re afraid and if it makes sense. I think that can be a great starting place for creating inclusive policies and communities.
TRC: Now a question for both of you: research! How did you start to research the time periods in your books? What was the most interesting thing you learned in your research that you did not already know?
MDM: I am so grateful for all the online resources available today, such as primary records from National Institute of Health and the Center for Disease Control about the flu pandemic. I was able to read survivors stories in letters, medical reports and newspaper articles from the time period. There are wonderful collections of photos from the early 1900’s as well as a few videos. Google Earth was a huge help in establishing Elaine’s neighborhood, but it wasn’t enough. I also traveled to Brooklyn and was toured through the neighborhoods by an elderly, longtime resident who pointed out where the business where Pop worked used to stand. Being in Brooklyn let me imagine the atmosphere, weather, sounds, smells, everything so critical in making a story real.
I grew up in pre-Silicon Valley San Jose, CA. Like Molly, I moved from San Francisco to San Jose when I was young. Even though I arrived later than 1955, it was still a time when new tract homes created suburbs that took over the fruit orchards and farms of early San Jose. I was able to conjure much of the atmosphere from memory. It was fun to research the history of my home town, read early newspapers, peruse photo collections and visit again with my story in mind.
SM: Because the idea for my book was born out of a two-part "Stuff You Missed in History Class" episode about the evacuation, I began my research process with a great overview of all that happened. From there, I looked at their show notes and followed every thread I could. Researching is like a web, where one source leads to another. I finally had to cut myself off and remind myself that I was writing a story, not a dissertation.
I learned a million new things because I was so ignorant about the evacuation. I mentioned earlier how surprised I was to learn that interracial marriage was illegal in many states in the 1940s, but on a more upbeat note, I was delighted to learn how the Japanese Americans found enjoyable ways to pass their time within the camps. They started camp newspapers, played tons of sports, had classes on all kinds of subjects, held community dances and so much more. I loved how they worked together to make the most of a bad experience.
TRC: I think that readers often confuse historical fiction with history --- something that they may originally find boring. What draws you to historical fiction, and why should more readers try books in this genre?
MDM: Cultures change, but the human story remains the same. We have the same hopes, fears, loves and dreams. History is millions of individual stories about people like us trying to survive their lives and that’s why we read. Being immersed in a time period other than my own always shows me something new about the world. Most historical fiction is very atmospheric. The setting is strong enough to be a character in the story and that appeals to me. It’s also refreshing to escape, for the space of a story, the noise of our own culture.
SM: Something I really like about historical fiction is the escape of it. It’s similar to sci-fi or fantasy in that way, where you feel as though you’ve been transported somewhere else completely. Who hasn’t wondered what it would’ve been like to live in the 1920s/Ancient Egypt/medieval Scotland? Historical fiction can give you a taste of that!
TRC: What are some of your favorite works of historical fiction? Are there any time periods you particularly love reading about?
MDM: There are so many I love that I have to keep the list short. Gillian Bradshaw’s Arthurian series: HAWK OF MAY, WINTER'S SHADOW and KINGDOM OF SUMMER is an all-time favorite. I like anything Arthurian. Phillip Pullman’s Ruby in the Smoke series are wonderful historical mysteries. Both series have huge YA appeal. For literary historical, I’m a fan of ALL THE LIGHT WE COULD NOT SEE, SNOW IN AUGUST and THE HISTORIAN. And I still love my first novel, THE PECULIARS, which is set in an alternative, steam punk 1988.
As for time periods, I love Victorian mysteries, all that foggy Sherlock Homes atmosphere, and Arthurian stories, knights, quests and Camelot.
SM: There are so many books I want to name that I’m struggling to limit myself! THE BOOK THIEF comes to mind. Not only is it the only book I’ve ever read where Death is a narrator, but it was the first exposure I had to what Germany looked like during the war. I finished the book feeling much more sympathy for the residents of Germany after having read that.
And while none of these books take place in the 1920s, that’s one of my favorite eras to read about.
TRC: Last of all, can you give us any hints about what you are working on next?
MDM: I have several projects in the works. One is a dual narrative about two teens who are struggling to find their way after grief. They go on a quest to find the oldest living tree in the Inyo Mountains of California. There’s a touch of magical realism involving the mythic Lone Pine Devil and an encounter with the three Fates. I’m also working on a series of books with my son-in-law for younger readers called Big Ideas for Little Humans that introduce children to philosophy.
SM: I read several amazing books in the last year with a dual timeline story, including Maureen’s, and now I’m itching to try that technique myself. I think that will be incorporated into my next project.
Happy Valentine's Day! Here at Teenreads we are super excited today about our love for books, our favorite characters and our favorite bookish couples. Check out some of Teen Board Member Jessica K. favorite YA couples that make her laugh, cry and swoon. From high fantasy power duos to sweet contemporary romance pairs, these seven bookish duos deserve all the boxes of chocolate, candy hearts, bouquets of roses and teddy bears.
I love countless YA books, in genres from science fiction to fantasy to contemporary, but nothing makes me love a book more than if it has a cute romance in it. For the most part, I love every couple I see grow along the course of a book or series, but with Valentine’s Day here, I can’t help but start to think of my all time favorite romances, so I thought I’d share them! These are the best of the best; the ones that you immediately fell in love with, that kept you swooning through the whole thing or that made you scream in frustration when they just wouldn’t get together! Hope you enjoy!
1. Feyre and Rhys from the A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas
Feyre and Rhys are easily my top choice for YA power couples. From their beginning hate relationship, to their uneasy alliance and friendship, to their fiery romance, I loved every second that they were together. They have such a well founded and developed relationship that I rarely find in YA books, and it makes them that much better. Their hilarious flirting, and the fact that they are equals in every way is amazing. Ruling the Night Court as the High Lord and Lady makes them the most iconic dynamic duo ever and I’m obsessed with them.
2. Tessa Gray and Will Herondale from The Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare
Everyone who has read this series knows the constant struggle between Jem and Will, as they are both perfect, but ultimately I just had to choose Tessa and Will, as Will is definitely one of the most swoon-worthy book characters. With his self-sacrificing behavior, willingness to do anything for Tessa, and overall beautiful personality and actions, Will and Tessa are absolutely perfect for each other. To top it all off, seeing them grow old together and how long-lasting and perfect their relationship easily places them near the top of this list.
3. Hazel and Gus from THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green
From the moment that they met, it was clear that Hazel and Gus would be absolutely perfect together, and they did not disappoint. Whether you enjoy the book or the movie adaptation, this relationship that ends too soon easily enthralls anyone who sees them. The infinite cute moments that these two have together make their love seem to last a lifetime, and I loved every second.
4. Simon and Blue from SIMON VS. THE HOMOSAPIENS AGENDA by Becky Albertalli
Simon is such a loveable character, and his adorable romance leaves a lasting impression. Every single email is amazing, and makes such a cute romance without having to have real life interactions. Literally after reading the first email I was already obsessed with Blue, and each following one only made it better. Also, the movie adaption is brilliant and only made me love Simon and Blue even more!
5. Percy and Annabeth in The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Although The Percy Jackson books may not be YA novels, I know these books, and this romance, hold a special place in my heart and so many others. The growth of their relationship, from meeting when they were twelve, to their first date, to actually falling into the Underworld for each other, Percy and Annabeth are the PEAK of the perfect relationship. They’re perfect for each other in every way, and so cute together especially as they grow up, that I just had to include them on this list.
6. Four and Tris from the Divergent series by Veronica Roth
This relationship is the kind that sneaks up on you, but you can’t help but fall in love with. Four’s stony behavior at first, and gradual warming up to Tris as their time together goes on creates such a cute relationship that leaves you constantly wanting to see how it progresses. Their cute ferris wheel moments and slowly progressing relationship made me fall in love with them more and more after each interaction that they have.
7. Dimple and Rishi from WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI by Sandhya Menon
Dimple and Rishi’s seemingly doomed from the start relationship is hilarious and heartbreaking as they seem to want different things, but as they grow closer it’s clear they are perfect together. Their adorable dates, study sessions, and increasing attraction for each other makes their relationship to die for, and I was genuinely smiling throughout this entire book. I’m obsessed with any hate-to-love relationship, yet Dimple and Rishi take it to a whole new level.
Hope you enjoyed this list, and feel free to make your own and see how they compare!
Today is one of the biggest days of the year for young adult and children's literature: the announcement of the ALA Youth Media Awards. Each year the American Library Association honors the books, videos and other outstanding works that have released that year for kids and teens and are recognized worldwide for the high quality they represent. We've compiled all of the young adult awards announcements here, so read on to see which of your favorites made the cut and click here to see the children's awards announcements!
The Michael L. Printz Award is an award for a book that exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature. It is named for a Topeka, Kansas school librarian who was a long-time active member of the Young Adult Library Services Association. The award is administered by YALSA and sponsored by Booklist, a publication of the American Library Association.
Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults
THE POET X, written by Elizabeth Acevedo, is the 2019 Printz Award winner. The book is published by HarperTeen, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
Three Printz Honor Books also were named: DAMSEL, written by Elana K. Arnold and published by Balzer+Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers; A HEART IN A BODY IN A WORLD, written by Deb Caletti and published by Simon Pulse, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing; and I, CLAUDIA, written by Mary McCoy and published by Carolrhoda Lab®, an imprint of Carolrhoda Books®, a division of Lerner Publishing Group.
The William C. Morris YA Debut Award, first awarded in 2009, honors a debut book published by a first-time author writing for teens and celebrating impressive new voices in young adult literature. The award is administered by the Young Adult Library Services Association, a division of the American Library Association. The award's namesake is William C. Morris, an influential innovator in the publishing world and an advocate for marketing books for children and young adults. Bill Morris left an impressive mark on the field of children’s and young adult literature. He was beloved in the publishing field and the library profession for his generosity and marvelous enthusiasm for promoting literature for children and teens.
DARIUS THE GREAT IS NOT OKAY, written by Adib Khorram, is the 2019 Morris Award winner. The book is published by Dial Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers, a division of Penguin Random House.
Four other books were finalists for the award: BLOOD WATER PAINT, written by Joy McCullough and published by Dutton Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers, a division of Penguin Random House; CHECK, PLEASE!: #Hockey, written and illustrated by Ngozi Ukazu and published by First Second, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group; CHILDREN OF BLOOD AND BONE, written by Tomi Adeyemi and published by Henry Holt Books, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group; and WHAT THE NIGHT SINGS, written and illustrated by Vesper Stamper and published by Knopf Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House.
The Alex Awards are given to ten books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18. The winning titles are selected from the previous year's publishing. The Alex Awards were first given annually beginning in 1998 and became an official ALA award in 2002. The award is sponsored by the Margaret A. Edwards Trust and administered by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), a division of the American Library Association. Edwards pioneered young adult library services and worked for many years at the Enoch Pratt Library in Baltimore. Her work is described in her book FAIR GARDEN AND THE SWARM OF BEASTS and over the years she has served as an inspiration to many librarians who serve young adults. The Alex Awards are named after Edwards, who was called “Alex” by her friends.
THE BLACK GOD'S DRUMS, By P. Djèlí Clark, Published by Tor.com, an imprint of Tom Doherty Associates, a division of Macmillan.
THE BOOK OF ESSIE, By Meghan MacLean Weir, Published by Knopf, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House.
CIRCE, By Madeline Miller, Published by Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group.
EDUCATED: A Memoir, by Tara Westover, Published by Random House, a division of Penguin Random House.
GREEN, by Sam Graham-Felsen, published by Random House, a division of Penguin Random House.
HOME AFTER DARK, by David Small, illustrated by the author, published by Liveright, an imprint of W.W. Norton & Company.
HOW LONG ’TIL BLACK FUTURE MONTH? By N. K. Jemisin, Published by Orbit, an imprint of Hachette Book Group.
LAWN BOY, by Jonathan Evison, Published by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, a division of Workman Publishing.
SPINNING SILVER, by Naomi Novik, published by Del Rey, a division of Penguin Random House.
Stonewall Book Award --- Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children’s & Young Adult Literature Award is given annually to English-language works of exceptional merit for children or teens relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender experience. The award is sponsored by the American Library Association's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Round Table.
JULIAN IS A MERMAID, written by Jessica Love and published by Candlewick Press, and HURRICANE CHILD, written by Kheryn Callender and published by Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic Inc., are the 2019 recipients of the Stonewall Book Awards – Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children’s & Young Adult Literature Award, respectively.
Two Honor Books were selected: IVY ABERDEEN’S LETTER TO THE WORLD, written by Ashley Herring Blake and published by Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.; and PICTURE US IN THE LIGHT, written by Kelly Loy Gilbert and published by Hyperion, an imprint of Disney Book Group.
The YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction honors the best nonfiction book published for young adults (ages 12-18) during a Nov. 1 - Oct. 31 publishing year. The award winner will be announced annually at the ALA Midwinter Meeting Youth Media Awards, with a shortlist of up to five titles named the first week of December. The award is administered by the Young Adult Library Services Association, a division of the American Library Association.
The Newbery Medal is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. On June 22, 1921, Frederic G. Melcher proposed the award to the American Library Association meeting of the Children's Librarians' Section and suggested that it be named for the eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. The idea was enthusiastically accepted by the children's librarians and Melcher's official proposal was approved by the ALA Executive Board in 1922.
Two Newbery Honor Books also were named: THE NIGHT DIARY, written by Veera Hiranandani and published by Dial Books for Young Readers, Penguin Young Readers Group, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC; and THE BOOK OF BOY, written by Catherine Gilbert Murdock, illustrated by Ian Schoenherr and published by Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
The Coretta Scott King Book Awards are given annually to outstanding African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values. The award commemorates the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and honors his wife, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, for her courage and determination to continue the work for peace and world brotherhood. The award is sponsored by ALA's Ethnic and Multicultural Information Exchange Round Table (EMIERT). The Coretta Scott King Book Award was founded in 1969 by Mabel McKissick and Glyndon Greer at the American Library Association Annual Conference in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The first award was given to Lillie Patterson in 1970 for her biography, MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.: Man of Peace (Garrard). In 1982, the Coretta Scott King Book Awards became an officially recognized ALA award. Three awards are given annually: Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award, Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Award and Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award.
Three King Author Honor Books were selected: FINDING LANGSTON, written by Lesa Cline-Ransome and published by Holiday House; THE PARKER INHERITANCE, written by Varian Johnson and published by Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc.; and THE SEASON OF STYX MALONE, written by Kekla Magoon and published by Wendy Lamb Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.
MONDAY'S NOT COMING, written by Tiffany D. Jackson, is the Steptoe Author Award winner. The book is published by Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
The Schneider Family Book Awards honor an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences. The award is donated by Dr. Katherine Schneider. Three annual awards are presented for the best Teen, Middle School and Children’s Book. The American Library Association administers the Awards, and each recipient receives $5000 and a framed plaque. Winners are announced at the ALA Midwinter Meeting.
ANGER IS A GIFT, written by Mark Oshiro and published by A Tor Teen Book, Tom Doherty Associates, is the winner for teens (ages 13-18).
The Margaret A. Edwards Award, established in 1988, honors an author, as well as a specific body of his or her work, for significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature. The annual award is administered by the Young Adult Library Services Association, a division of the American Library Association, and sponsored by School Library Journal magazine. It recognizes an author's work in helping adolescents become aware of themselves and addressing questions about their role and importance in relationships, society and in the world. The Edwards award celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2013.
The 2019 winner is M.T. Anderson. His books include: FEED; THE ASTONISHING LIFE OF OCTAVIAN NOTHING, TRAITOR TO THE NATION, VOLUME I: THE POX PARTY; and THE ASTONISHING LIFE OF OCTAVIAN NOTHING, TRAITOR TO THE NATION, VOLUME II: THE KINGDOM OF THE WAVES, all published by Candlewick Press.
The May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture recognizes an author, critic, librarian, historian or teacher of children's literature, who then presents a lecture at a winning host site. The lecturer, announced annually at the ALA Midwinter Meeting, shall prepare a paper considered to be a significant contribution to the field of children's literature. Once the name is made public, institutions wishing to host the lecture may apply. A library school, department of education in college or university or a children's library system may be considered. This paper is delivered as a lecture each April, and is subsequently published in Children & Libraries, the journal of the Association for Library Service to Children. ALSC established the lecture series in 1969 with sponsorship from Scott, Foresman and Company. May Hill Arbuthnot (1884-1969) was born in Mason City, Iowa, and graduated from the University of Chicago in 1922, receiving her master's degree in 1924 from Columbia University. Along with educator William Scott Gray, she created and wrote the Curriculum Foundation Readers --- better known as the Dick and Jane series --- for children published by Scott, Foresman and Company (now Pearson Scott Foresman).
Neil Gaiman will deliver the 2020 May Hill Arbuthnot Honor Lecture. Born in England, Gaiman is a United States resident. His work has been honored with many awards internationally, including the Newbery Medal. He is credited with being one of the creators of modern comics, as well as an author whose work crosses genres and reaches audiences of all ages. Gaiman is a prolific creator of works of prose, poetry, film, journalism, comics, song lyrics, and drama and a vocal defender of the freedom to read.
The Children’s Literature Legacy Award honors an author or illustrator whose books, published in the United States, have made, over a period of years, a substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children.
The 2019 winner is Walter Dean Myers, whose award-winning works include SOMEWHERE IN THE DARKNESS, a 1993 Newbery Honor Book, and MONSTER, recipient of a 2000 Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book. In addition, Myers received the first Coretta Scott King – Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2010.
The Odyssey Award is given to the producer of the best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults, available in English in the United States. The award is jointly given and administered by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) and the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), divisions of ALA, and is sponsored by Booklist. The story of the wanderings of Ulysses, as he returns to his kingdom of Ithaca after the Trojan War, are ascribed to the blind poet Homer who either wrote, or dictated, the epic poem called THE ODYSSEY. Whether this odyssey of Ulysses was based on one specific event, or many different ones, is argued by researchers today, though they all seem to agree that the poems comprising THE ODYSSEY were originally told and retold in the oral tradition, hence the name for this award. The Odyssey Award allows us to return to the ancient roots of storytelling, while living in our modern world.
SADIE, produced by Macmillan Audio from Wednesday Books, an imprint of St. Martin’s Press, is the 2019 Odyssey Award winner. The book is written by Courtney Summers and narrated by Rebecca Soler, Fred Berman, Dan Bittner, Gabra Zackman, and more.
DU IZ TAK, produced by Weston Woods Studio, a division of Scholastic, written by Carson Ellis and narrated by Eli and Sebastian D’Amico, Burton, Galen and Laura Fott, Sarah Hart, Bella Higginbotham, Evelyn Hipp and Brian Hull; ESQUIVEL! Space-Age Sound Artist, produced by Live Oak Media, written by Susan Wood and narrated by Brian Amador; THE PARKER INHERITANCE, produced by Scholastic Audiobooks, written by Varian Johnson and narrated by Cherise Booth; and THE POET X, produced by HarperAudio, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers and written and narrated by Elizabeth Acevedo.
The Pura Belpré Awards are named after Pura Belpré, the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library. The Pura Belpré Award, established in 1996, is presented annually to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth. It is co-sponsored by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA) and REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking, an ALA affiliate.
THE POET X, written by Elizabeth Acevedo, is the Pura Belpré Author Award winner. The book is published by HarperTeen, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
One Belpré Author Honor Book was named: THEY CALL ME GÜERO: A Border Kid’s Poems, written by David Bowles and published by Cinco Puntos Press.
The Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal is awarded annually to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished informational book published in the United States in English during the preceding year. The award is named in honor of Robert F. Sibert, the long-time President of Bound to Stay Bound Books, Inc. of Jacksonville, Illinois. The Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, administers the award.
CAMP PANDA: Helping Cubs Return to the Wild, written by Catherine Thimmesh and published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; SPOOKED!: How a Radio Broadcast and The War of the Worlds Sparked the 1938 Invasion of America, written by Gail Jarrow and published by Calkins Creek, an imprint of Highlights; THE UNWANTED: Stories of the Syrian Refugees, written and illustrated by Don Brown and published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; WE ARE GRATEFUL: Otsaliheliga, written by Traci Sorell, illustrated by Frané Lessac and published by Charlesbridge; and WHEN ANGELS SING: The Story of Rock Legend Carlos Santana, written Michael Mahin, illustrated by Jose Ramirez and published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division.
The Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature promotes Asian/Pacific American culture and heritage and is awarded based on literary and artistic merit. The award offers three youth categories including Picture Book, Children’s Literature and Young Adult Literature. The award is administered by the Asian Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA), an affiliate of the..
If you're itching for a genre-bending read about science, identity and heartbreak to kick off your 2019 TBR, look no further than Rebecca Hanover's debut novel, THE SIMILARS, which is now in stores. In this riveting book, the school year at Darkwood Academy becomes a lot more cutthroat as six new students join the junior class. But they aren't your regular ambitious teens. They're clones. Oh, and they're joining the class alongside their originals. Emmaline Chance, who is grieving the loss of her best friend Oliver, couldn't care less about the other students at Darkwood or their DNA copies --- until she meets Levi, Oliver's clone, and the sixth Similar. Ready to learn more about this explosive debut? Check out the book trailer below, and read on for more info about THE SIMILARS.
The Similars by Rebecca Hanover - YouTube
When six clones join Emmeline's prestigious boarding school, she must confront the heartbreak of seeing her dead best friend's face each day in class in THE SIMILARS, an exhilarating and riveting debut by Rebecca Hanover.
Junior year just got a lot more cutthroat.
This fall, six new students are joining the junior class at the elite Darkwood Academy. But they aren't your regular over-achieving teens. They're clones. And they're joining the class alongside their originals.
The Similars are all anyone can talk about: Who are these clones? What are the odds that all of them would be Darkwood students? And who is the madman who broke the law against cloning to create them? Emmaline Chance couldn't care less. Her best friend, Oliver, died over the summer and it's all she can do to get through each day without him.
Then she comes face-to-heartbreaking-face with Levi --- Oliver's exact DNA copy and one of the Similars.
Emma wants nothing to do with the Similars, except she keeps getting pulled deeper into their clique. She can't escape the dark truths about the clones or her prestigious school. No one can be trusted...not even the boy she is falling for with Oliver's face.
Somaiya Daud's debut novel, MIRAGE, is a beautifully written fantasy about royal and colonial politics where a girl is forced to be a body double for a despised princess. In a world dominated by the brutal Vathek empire, Amani is a dreamer. But when adventure comes for Amani, it is not what she expects: she is kidnapped and taken to the royal palace, where she discovers that she is nearly identical to the cruel half-Vathek Princess. The princess is so hated by her conquered people that she requires a body double. As Amani is forced into her new role, she can’t help but enjoy the palace’s beauty and her time with the princess’ fiancé. But Amani must play the princess to perfection...because one wrong move could lead to her death. Teen board member Rachel D. got a chance to talk to Somaiya about writing and identity in her debut novel. Keep reading to see their conversation!
Teenreads.com: What was your favorite character to write?
Somaiya Daud: I don’t know if this is surprising to readers but Maram was my favorite character to write. She was also the easiest character to write. Amani is super empathetic and compassionate and Maram is very angry. I understood a lot of her anger from the get-go because it’s so difficult to exist between two worlds when one of your parents is one thing and the other one is another.
TRC: I felt like that came out in your writing as well; the scenes with Maram were so exciting. I think it was also because the dynamic between her and Amani was always evolving, which brings me to my next question---do you think forgiveness is always acceptable? Was it an important part of your book?
SD: Their [Amani and Maram] dynamic was so interesting because it wasn’t just that Maram was in a position of power over Amani but that because Amani looks exactly like her, she’s constantly forced to look at the ways in which she’s failed as a person. Personality-wise and compassion-wise: this girl is literally walking around with her face and is capable of all these different kindnesses, and it forces Maram to think about why Amani is like that and she herself is not.
I think forgiveness under a colonial regime to people of your community is so important. Occupation preys on breaking up communities and occupation has taken advantage of the fact that Maram refuses to connect with her mother’s side of the family. Amani’s capacity to interact with her in a compassionate way then opens up the door for Maram to be a much better person and, as a person in power, to do things that Amani couldn’t do because she is just a farm girl.
TRC: In your novel, there’s examples of mystical storytelling sometimes blending religion. How did your background help to influence your writing?
SD: My mother is Moroccan and my father is African-American; my mother’s family is Muslim and my father’s family is Muslim. The Moroccan stuff is really self-evident --- they all wear kaftans, Amani cooks foods that I can’t cook but my mother cooks and she speaks Arabic and loves poetry. My mother and my aunt were both Arabic literary majors in college so for the poetry in the book I would call them up to help me translate classical Arabic words.
The book is also very much about living under colonialism and under occupation and how those things affect cultural practices, language acquisition, community formations and religion. I think it’s really easy to take for granted the ways in which those things are freely available to you, if you’re part of the majority party. Amani’s investment in all of these things is that she understands that the minute they disappear, they lose any chance of standing up to the Vath and any chance of reclaiming their planet back and their history. For me, as a brown and Muslim person living in America, I understand the ways in which assimilation is so easy. It would be easier to do things the way they [everyone] want, but that resistance is so important because that’s how you connect with other people in your community and preserve your way of life.
TRC: I also wanted to talk about identity, specifically how your own biracial identity helped you write Maram.
SD: The thing with being biracial is that both sides of the aisle are don’t think you’re enough. There’s this constant refrain where I constantly get asked if I’m Sudanese and it’s because I wear the hijab and I’m brown-skinned. On the other side, because I wear the hijab most people don’t clock me as black. That creates a volatile psychological space and I was lucky in that I had parents who were very firm about the idea that ethnicities matter but it matters most that I am Muslim. So I had a stable center, whereas if you don’t have that it’s so easy to believe the horrible things that both sides of the aisle say about you. Maram is a person who is no getting no support from anyone --- her father is an evil dictator and her mother died early. She [Maram] visibly looks like her mother so all of her father’s people think she’s a mutt. She’s been cut off from her mother’s people so she hates everyone and she hates herself because represents this awkward regime in the worst way. A lot of my high school experiences and experiences of people that I know that occupy that space came into Maram; what would a person look like who also had no checks? She does the worst things because nobody is there to tell her otherwise.
TRC: Are we limited to our parents to tell us who we are?
SD: I think as a kid yes. As a kid you’re so dependent on your appearance for a sense of self. There’s also a point---which is important to Maram and her difference with Amani --- where you become responsible for your decisions. You can say you had a bad childhood but there comes a point where you have to choose what you’re doing and Maram has moved past that point. She’s 17 years old; she should know better. There comes a point where you decide the person that you are going to be and how you’re going to move through the world, if you’re going to be kind to people and how you’re going to change the world. Your parents can give you the tools for that but at the end of the day that’s up to you.
TRC: This is the first novel you’ve gotten published, but I assume it’s not the first you’ve written.
SD: This is actually my eleventh one! I’ve been writing towards publication since I was 18 and I finished my first novel when I was 19. My fourth one got me my first agent and then I wrote 4-5 in between that and my second agent and my book deal.
TRC: If you don’t mind sharing, how do you think this book differentiates itself from your first few unpublished ones?
SD: I’m a better writer. I keep everything that I write --- I don’t delete anything --- so I’ll look back and they’re bad. I’ll continue to get better. I have a better understanding of how to construct a prose and how to make it lyrical; I have a better understanding of plot and characters. I’m an English PhD so it’s constant learning process. I think that everyone wants the first book they write to be the first book they publish and for some people that happens, but even if that’s not what happens, it’s a learning experience. Finishing books after my first one was so much easier because I realized it’s not a magical, impossible task --- I know how to get to the end. I think this [novel] is my tightest plot-wise and most crystal clear in terms of prose.
We have a Q&A with Katrin van Dam, author of COME NOVEMBER.
Tell us a little bit about COME NOVEMBER and introduce us to Rooney.
As the book begins, Rooney Harris is entering her senior year of high school. She’s been forced into a quasi-parental role because her mother is so wrapped up in the Next World Society, a group that believes that on November 17, they are going to be transported to a new planet to re-start human civilization. Rooney’s very frustrated with her mom, and feels responsible for her younger brother, Daniel. She really just wants to get through senior year and go off to college like everyone else, but her mother’s beliefs derail her plans.
Rooney definitely isn’t me, but we do have some things in common. We both believe that we need to be in control of every situation and we tend to be a little too convinced of our own rightness. We both default to anger when we’re out of our depth. And Rooney may also sound a little bit like me. Beyond that, she’s totally her own person.
What sparked the idea to write COME NOVEMBER? Did the plot come first, or your characters?
I started writing the book in 2011. I was full of anxiety about the state of the planet and I got it into my head that I wanted to write something, but I wasn’t sure what. In May of that year, there was a lot of press about a doomsday prophet who convinced a bunch of people that the Rapture was coming. I kept reading articles about his followers and wondering what the heck was going to happen to them when the world failed to end. Around that same time, I read a fascinating piece about Easter Island, and a theory about what caused the civilization there to decline. Those two ideas were bouncing around in my brain and then one day they collided and I thought, “What would happen if you combined the cult thing and the environmental catastrophe thing?”
How did you approach creating Everett?
As the leader of the Next World Society, Everett had to be someone who could come across as either impressive or a con artist – he needed to have a little ambiguity. For believers, Everett’s way of speaking might make him seem intelligent and credible, but a skeptic could easily read him as someone who’s hiding something behind a lot of flowery language and a fancy accent. I also needed Everett to serve as the mouthpiece for a catalog of facts about climate change that are real and important. So I made him someone whose primary form of address is the monologue: he enjoys the sound of his own voice and is used to commanding the attention in a room.
What about creating the Next World Society?
I just tried to imagine all the different kinds of people who might be drawn in by someone like Everett and by his message. In the first draft of the book I included a few additional storylines that tracked some of the other members of the NWS – people who were really tearing their families apart in order to follow Everett. Ultimately those characters got cut, but I’m still really moved by the idea of people having to make that terrible choice.
Have you always been interested in environmental/climate change issues? How did you research these areas?
Yeah, I’m a little obsessed. One of my friends likes to call me “Cassandra” because I can’t shut up about it (I used that for the character of Anjelica in the book). There are a few writers who have shaped my understanding of what we’re facing. Elizabeth Kolbert is one; she’s such a strong, vivid writer and makes things so clear and easy to understand. There’s also a book by Mark Lynas about how the planet is going to respond as the atmosphere warms that I was very influenced by.
I also read a lot about flood plains in New York City. My original outline for the book actually included a massive hurricane hitting New York and causing catastrophic flooding. But by the time I had a few chapters written I realized there was just WAY too much incident in the book and some stuff had to fall by the wayside, so I eliminated the whole hurricane storyline. And then the following year Superstorm Sandy decimated huge swaths of New York and I thought, “it’s a good thing I cut that part, since everyone would assume I added it in response to what happened.” But yeah, Cassandra saw that one coming.
COME NOVEMBER is chock full of fleshed out supporting characters, including Rooney’s mother, Anneliese. Can you tell us how you developed this character?
Anneliese is the one character who was loosely based on a real person. Not her involvement with the NWS or anything like that, just the way she talks and looks. That childlike quality. This woman was related to a friend of mine, and I remember talking to her once, and her saying, “it was just super… DUPER!” in this breathy, excited little-girl voice, and I thought that was hysterical, and so alien to me that it really intrigued me.
Where did Mrs. Fisher “come from?”
Mrs. Fisher was inspired by a newsletter from the wonderful Quaker boarding school my husband attended. I love reading their communications because they’re always so thoughtful about caring for people and for the world. Back when I first started working on the book, they sent out this letter about a Ghanaian scholarship student who was just crushing it at the school. He sounded like an all-around spectacular person: A great student, athlete and human being. And I thought that was such an interesting background for a person, so I borrowed it for Mrs. Fisher.
For the aspiring writers who may read this, please share a bit about your path to publication.
I’m not gonna lie: It was brutal. I had never written anything like this before, only short licensed books for much younger readers. And I wasn’t at all sure that I could actually pull it off. So I worked in complete isolation for three years. Literally didn’t show the draft to another living soul until I was reasonably confident that I had written an actual book. And then I showed it to my husband, and he liked it, so I thought, “Okay, I guess I need to go find an agent.” And things progressed really quickly: I got an agent in, like, a day and a half, and within a month we heard we were going to get an offer and I thought, “Oh, this is easy. Why does everyone say it’s so hard to get a book published?”
And then that offer fell through and no one else wanted it. It was just a flood of rejections. So based on the feedback we were getting I spent about six months doing a massive rewrite on the book. I cut around 150 pages and reworked huge sections of it, and still no one wanted it. And the flood of rejections turned into a trickle. And two years passed, and I basically gave up hope and moved on to trying to focus on the next book, when we suddenly got the offer from Scholastic. Let me just say, it’s a good thing I have a day job and a fulfilling home life, because I would have lost my mind if all my emotional energy had been focused on publishing this book.
How has your background in theater and children’s entertainment informed your fiction writing?
Having trained as an actor, I’m always very focused on the way characters sound. I have to be able to hear them in my head and on my tongue, and I’m very critical of anything that sounds inauthentic or not like the way humans talk and behave. I’m much more confident about dialogue than I am about plot.
Who are some of your favorite writers?
I don’t really have favorite writers, but I have favorite books. In the YA space, I love Eleanor & Park and I’ll Give you the Sun and Two Boys Kissing. Some of my favorite novels for adults are Corelli’s Mandolin and The Time Traveler’s Wife. If a book can make me laugh and cry without ever feeling manipulated, it will have my heart forever. Bonus points if it also makes me think about something I never would have come to on my own.
When you are not writing, what are your favorite hobbies & activities?
I love to cook, love to have close friends over for a meal. My husband and I go to the theater a lot, since we both come out of that acting background. We do a fair bit of traveling – we recently went to Australia to scuba dive on the Great Barrier Reef, which was a bucket list item for me. I used to love dancing, but my body is all busted now, so I take a lot of walks in the park to satisfy my need for movement.
What are you writing now, and when can will we see it?
I’ve been working on and off on a book about Rooney’s younger brother, Daniel. As I was finishing COME NOVEMBER he was the character I was most interested in spending more time with. I think Rooney’s arc leaves her in a good place at the end of the book, but Daniel is more up in the air. I wanted to know what happened to him. And as for when you can see it… that’s only partly up to me. As I learned from the process of selling this first book, you can never make any assumptions. But I hope that COME NOVEMBER does well enough that people want to hear more from these characters.
Where can readers find you online?
I just launched my website at katrinvandam.com and I really hope people check it out. The look of it is very inspired by the beautiful cover art that Maeve Norton created for the book, so every time I look at it I get all happy. I’m also on Instagram at @katvandambooks.
Synesthesia is a condition where the sense become crossed in a way that allows some people to hear color or taste sounds. In CJ Lyons' latest thriller THE COLOR OF LIES, synesthesia plays a key role. Ella Cleary has always been good at reading people. Her family has a rare medical condition called synesthesia that scrambles the senses --- her Gram Helen sees every sound, and her uncle Joe can literally taste words. Ella’s own synesthesia manifests itself as the ability to see colors that reveal people’s true emotions…until she meets a guy she just can’t read. Alec is a mystery to Ella, a handsome, enigmatic young journalist who makes her feel normal for the first time in her life. That is, until he reveals the real reason why he sought her out --- he wants to learn the truth behind her parents’ deaths. CJ stopped by our blog today to talk more about synesthesia and its role in her novel.
Did you know that the world you see, feel, hear and touch isn’t real? It’s actually only your brain’s interpretation of reality --- which means the world you experience may be vastly different than what the person standing beside you believes to be “real.”
As a pediatric ER doctor and thriller writer, I’ve always been fascinated by how the brain perceives reality, especially during traumatic events, when what we experience and remember may be vastly different from reality as our brains work to reframe and understand the chaos surrounding us. This is particularly true during early childhood.
My new YA thriller, THE COLOR OF LIES, focuses on this paradox and adds an unique medical twist: the main character, Ella, has synesthesia.
Synesthesia is not a disease, but rather the way the brain processes information is mistranslated into other senses. You may see letters as colors or smell words you read.
People with synesthesia experience the world differently, which is not only fascinating, it makes for an intriguing character --- especially since we all base our idea of reality on what we see, hear, feel. For people with synesthesia, their reality is already very different than people who don’t have synesthesia, so if we upset that reliance on what is seen, felt, or heard, how do we know what’s real and what isn’t?
Start playing with people’s perception of reality, of their basic, essential truth, and you open up a world of possibilities for a story.
For THE COLOR OF LIES, my first inspiration was the idea of a girl who saw everyone else’s truth...but was blind to her own.
I loved that conflict, the paradox of what we see and believe versus what is real. And how we deny reality, sacrifice it to our dreams by what we choose to believe...It happens every day in the real world. Just look at the epidemic of fake news posing as reality.
What if someone’s entire life was colored by what they wanted to believe instead of what was real.
In THE COLOR OF LIES, Ella has always trusted her unique ability to see people's true emotions via their auras to help her navigate life. But then she meets the new boy in town whose aura she cannot read. He makes her question everything she's always believed to be true: her ability, her identity, her life...and the real reason behind her parents' deaths.
Many people with synesthesia don't even know they have it --- it's simply how they see the world and they think everyone experiences it the same way. These include some famous artists such as Kandinsky, Tori Amos, Duke Ellington, Billy Joel, Franz Liszt, Vincent Van Gogh and Bob Dylan, among others. About 4% of the population are estimated to have some form of synesthesia (about twice as many as those who have red hair), so it's actually fairly common.
In addition to doing extensive research on synesthesia, I’m fortunate that several friends of mine actually have it, so I could learn from their first hand experiences. One, a musician, sees notes as colors. When she memorizes a complex composition she doesn’t memorize each individual note but rather the colors she “paints” with as she plays.
It may be wistful thinking, but I might even have a mild variation myself: all my life, I’ve been able to taste a recipe while reading it, even if I’ve never eaten it before. Of course, that could simply be the overactive imagination of a writer!
Not all synesthesia creates a pleasant experience for the people who have it. Imagine tasting baby poop every time you hear the word “football” or feeling sounds thundering through your brain when you’re in a crowd.
But if you could experience the world in a new way, even if your brain is lying to you, how wonderful and fantastic that would be! And, knowing that our individual reality is not necessarily the truth, doesn’t that make the world a bigger place where we need to share our “truths” and honor others’ experiences rather than shutting them down, hiding behind our own black and white false perceptions?
After all, we’re all surrounded by the color of the lies our brains tell us every minute of every day.
Here in America, Election Day is Tuesday, November 6th. For a lot of young people this will only be their first or second time voting. The right to vote is incredibly important to Teenreads, and it's a right that all Americans should treasure. That said, a lot of young people don't vote, so Teen Board member Isabel C. put together a list of fun book recommendations that cover politics and elections. Isabel says,"If you're a young person who can vote: read these books! Recommend them to your friends! Show just how much one vote can accomplish. If you're a parent or older person reading this, read these books too! Then give them to the young people in your life who might need a push to get out to the polls. Offer to drive your teen (and their friends!) to your local polling station. We can debate until we run out of air, but nothing will happen if we don't show up and VOTE."
SAY YOU'LL REMEMBER ME by Katie McGarry --- This book came out back in January and I absolutely loved it. It features two teens from opposite tracks of life. Elle is the daughter of the governor. Drix just got out of a rehabilitation program for "troubled teens." The book highlights the school-to-prison pipeline (a topic every teen should learn about) and what it's like to be on the inside of politics. You can find out more and read my full review here.
YOUR OWN WORST ENEMY by Gordon Jack --- Coming out right after election day, this book showcases politics at the high school level, a perfect jumping board for teens just starting to vote.
THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas --- Inspired by the actual events of the Black Lives Matter movement, THE HATE U GIVE is incredibly timely. Also, the movie adaption just came out! This is the perfect chance to read the book then see the movie that is making incredible waves.
One of this year's hottest releases, LOVE, HATE AND OTHER FILTERS by Samira Ahmed is incredibly timely. The story is about Maya Aziz, an Indian-American Muslim teen. Her daily life of photography and high school crushes is interrupted when an act of terror is committed across the country by a man who shares her last name. This is a great book for teens coming to terms with terror attacks in the US and what they mean for those, directly and indirectly, involved.
GHOST BOYS by Jewel Parker Rhodes is a great book for younger readers about how history interweaves with the present. It examines what happens after a tragedy, specifically the killing of a young boy by a police officer. By having the main character observe what happens after his death as a ghost, it opens a new way of dealing with a tough subject. Added in the book is the story and ghost of Emmett Till. GHOST BOYS is a great book for dealing with tough subjects with younger readers.
THAT'S NOT WHAT HAPPENED by Kody Keplinger is also incredibly timely. A lot of teens (including me!) have been getting involved with the March For Our Lives movement that began after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. This is a great book for teens just beginning their political activism to read. THAT'S NOT WHAT HAPPENED provides a fictional setting for events that are often all too real.
Calling all budding feminists in the house. OUR STORIES, OUR VOICES edited by Amy Reed is the perfect book for you. This anthology is an inspiring look into the lives of 21 YA authors. OUR STORIES, OUR VOICES can both provide solidarity for lived experiences and provide a door into different ones.
GLIMMER OF HOPE: How Tragedy Sparked a Movement by The March for Our Lives Founders is an inspiring collection of poetry, stories and recollections. It documents how strength can be found even in the darkest moments, and how the actions of one person can change the lives of many. This is especially moving since it is other teens taking action. It's all well and good for an adult to tell a teen how to make change, but to hear it from your peers is something else entirely. This book will remind everyone that teens are a force to be reckoned with.
NEVERTHELESS, WE PERSISTED: 48 Voices of Defiance, Strength, and Courage. 2018 has been the year for inspiring anthologies. This one is a collection of stories by actors, athletes, and current teen activists about a time they overcame adversity as a teen. This book will help teens gain the courage to stand up to hate and will provide relatable stories for many teens.
With how dark everything can feel, I wanted to end this with hope. HOPE NATION: YA Authors Share Personal Moments of Inspiration edited by Rose Brock is a collection of essays and stories by some amazing YA authors. Just as it's important to follow all the awful things happening in the news, it's just as important to remind ourselves to take a step back. While we fight for a better world, our biggest strength is hope. As Suzanne Collins said in The Hunger Games "Hope. The only thing stronger than fear."
Solid world-building is a must for any high-stakes fantasy and part of the task is avoiding harmful stereotypes. Erica Cameron, author of The Ryogan Chronicles, stopped by our blog this week to talk about breaking out of these stereotypes int he fantastical world of her series. In the third book in the series, WAR OF STORMS, the immortal mages have risen, and they're out for blood. Khya arrived at the Ryogan coast too late to stop the invasion. Now, cities are falling before the unrelenting march of an enemy army, and Khya's squad is desperately trying to stay ahead of them. Warning the Ryogans, though, means leaving her brother imprisoned even longer. Calling in help from every ally she's made in Ryogo, Khya tries to build a plan that won't require sacrificing her friends or her brother. The end is coming, and there's no way to know who'll be left standing when it hits.
The human mind is wired to jump to conclusions. It’s an evolutionary survival instant from the days when we needed to instantly be able to decide if something was safe or dangerous. The need to make split-second calls like that isn’t a normal part of the day for most people --- cops, firefighters, the military and others excepted, of course --- but our minds still approach every new situation the same way our many-times-removed ancestors did. This is part of why it’s so hard for society to completely break away from stereotypes and prejudices. It’s a theme I play with quite a bit throughout The Ryogan Chronicles.
Although I did remove a lot of modern prejudices from the societies I built for my world, no human social structure is without its issues and its divisions. Itagami separates its population based on magic and exactly how much of it they have. Characters like Sanii are overlooked by the citizens of the city because of their assumptions about yonin --- the magicless servant class. This is why Sanii’s arc is all about breaking down the ways people underestimate em and proving them wrong.
When creating characters, there is a lot to think about, and it goes far beyond what shows up on the page. It’s important not only to be aware of what a character thinks and how they see the world, it’s also crucial to take into consideration how the world sees them. It’s a truth of human psychology that both sides of this particular coin have a huge impact on how individuals interact with the world around them --- and what they expect from the world.
In books I can set up situations which force characters to examine their own minds with new eyes, a feat that’s much harder to manage with real people. What I can hope is that readers can learn along with Khya how to question the things they’re taught and the preconceptions they might have about others. Sanii changes as the series progresses, gaining confidence in eir abilities and trust in eir own instincts as ey proves to emself and the world exactly how capable ey is. Khya, too, changes as this same knowledge sinks into her mind. If I did my job right, the reader will take the same journey.
Grief is a powerful emotion and books that confront this complicated feeling are often poignant and thought-provoking. In her new release THAT NIGHT, Amy Giles tackles grief from two perspectives in an evocative story about tragedy, love and learning to heal. The year since a mass shooting shook their Queens neighborhood has played out differently for Jess and Lucas, both of whom were affected by that night in eerily similar and deeply personal ways. As Jess struggles to take care of her depressed mother and Lucas takes up boxing under the ever-watchful eye of his overprotective parents, their paths converge. They slowly become friends and then something more, learning to heal and move forward together. Amy stopped by our blog this week to share her thoughts on kindness, both in the world of THAT NIGHT and real life.
In THAT NIGHT, Jess Nolan and Lucas Rossi --- two survivors of a mass shooting at a movie theater --- are both trying to cope and heal in the aftermath of the violence that took both of their brothers and shattered their tightknit community. Set one year after the shooting, they share the same grief, but their methods of coping are different, especially for Lucas who believes the universe took the “better” Rossi brother.
Lucas is reminded of his brother’s death every morning when he wakes up to Jason’s Corner: his empty bed, the trophies and ribbons on his shelves that their mother still dutifully dusts every week, a “shrine to her spectacular firstborn.” Jason had everything going for him, but that night when the bullets rang out in the crowded theater, Jason threw himself on top of Lucas to shield him. Lucas has to cope not just with loss, but the guilt of knowing his brother gave up his own life to save him.
Desperate for something to make him feel his life isn’t a mistake, Lucas begins a Random Acts of Kindness log, a way to put good into the world and balance the scales. As Lucas puts it, “If the randomness of my continued existence is still a huge, giant existential crisis, I hope these small acts count at least a little toward earning my continued room and board on this planet.” Some acts are common courtesies that people should just do anyway, like giving someone a seat on the subway if they obviously need it more. But every day, Lucas searches for ways to make someone else’s day a little easier, a little brighter: checking in on his elderly neighbor, bringing her trash cans in, relocating a spider outside. “I don’t ever want to take my existence for granted. Especially when Jason’s Corner reminds me every day that I’m in the universe’s debt because it took the wrong Rossi brother.”
We live in a world where the news is often fear-based, designed to frighten us so we don’t change the channel. We go on social media to connect but there’s so much conflict and unrest there too. Putting some kindness in the world is the perfect antidote to offset all the negativity and to lift our spirits and the spirits of those around us. A smile, a compliment, a good deed costs you nothing but can fill someone’s heart with joy.
Last night, I was speaking at a teen panel at a local library. I brought a box of books with me that were much heavier than I expected. When I was leaving, someone from the library saw me struggling. He offered to carry my box to the parking lot but it felt like too big of a favor to accept from a complete stranger. He then offered to wait with my books while I pulled the car around. But it was when he told me, “Take your time, don’t worry,” that I truly felt he understood how difficult it often is to accept someone’s offer of kindness. It’s hard enough to ask for help, so unsolicited help when we’re unaccustomed to it makes us feel we’re putting that person out, when really what we’re doing is feeding that person’s soul by allowing them to do a kindness.
Acts of kindness have the power to improve not just someone’s day, but someone’s life. You have no idea how depleted their tanks may be that day, or what they’re going through; your act of kindness may restore their faith in their lives and in humanity. An act of kindness also gives you joy because it feels good to be kind; it’s so much easier to carry kindness around than to burn with rage. And you reap what you sow. If you put kindness into the universe, it will come back to you. Kindness is cyclical.
So maybe Lucas is on to something. Maybe we can all start a Random Act of Kindness list. And it might catch on.