Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Skinny on Plus-Size YA

In the past few days there have been a flurry of articles highlighting one of the new trends in YA fiction. No, it's not vampires...or werewolves...or zombies...or fairies...or any other supernatural or magical creatures. It's novels featuring overweight teen protagonists!

As I've been thinking about ordering books for my library, I've been careful to ensure that the fiction list contains books reflecting the wide array of racial and cultural diversity in my student body and covers all genres. I looked for titles featuring characters with various physical, mental and psychological abilities and differences. But I never thought about their weight. But I'll bet my middle schoolers (fat, thin, short, and tall alike) think a lot about their weight, and I'll bet that I have students who are looking to see their clothing size represented on our shelves.

I confess to not having read any of the titles noted in the articles, but I definitely plan to check them out. One of the ABC articles includes a handy list of recommended reads, which gives a nice quick plot summary for each book. Looks like I've got some additional purchasing to do!

Monday, August 24, 2009

What's in Your Top Ten?

Adults (librarians, book sellers, reviewers, other professionals) have signaled their favorite YA books all year long through various awards and whatnot. Isn't it about time that teens had their say? Voting for YALSA's 2009 Teens' Top Ten is now open!

To vote for your favorites from the list of 25 nominated titles, complete this survey. Voting is open to all teens from today (Monday, August 24th) through Friday, September 18th. Winners will be announced during Teen Read Week, October 18-24th. If you're a teen, vote! If you know teen readers, encourage them to vote!

Since I'm not a teen, I'm not eligible to vote, but if I could choose my three favorites from the nominees, I think I'd go with The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Graceling by Kristin Cashore and Impossible by Nancy Werlin. Funny thing is, I always thought of myself as more of a realistic fiction kind of girl (Frankie, I still love you!), but my votes are all for fantasy and science fiction. Weird, huh?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Back to Life, Back to Reality

As I sit on the couch of our rented villa on Hilton Head Island, looking out at the palm trees and the way the sun glistens on the water, I can't shake the knowledge that summer is coming to a close. It's been a fantastical journey for me these past several months during the "Parade of Awesome," and I'm almost sad to see it end...but there are so many new exciting things happening this fall, it almost seems silly!

Here are the things I'm most looking forward to this fall:

1. Starting my new job as a middle school librarian (August 31)
2. The release of Catching Fire and Hate List (September 1)
3. The release of Liar, complete with a fabulous new cover (September 29)
4. My third wedding anniversary AND the release of Fire AND The Maze Runner (October 6)
5. KidLitCon 09, where I'll finally get to meet bloggers, like Charlotte, in person (October 17)
6. Having more time in my schedule to blog regularly
7. Looking into writing some "real" reviews
8. Getting some collaboration going with the folks at the Alexandria Public Library
9. Exploring Alexandria's Old Town
10. Receiving new ARCs and giving old ones away as prizes!

What are you looking forward to this fall?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Twilight Zone?: Shiver Me Timbers

Back at ALA one of the publisher booths was handing out ARCs of an upcoming title. I wasn't really in the mood to carry more stuff around, but the woman at the booth was practically forcing everyone who walked by to get a copy. So I took one, feeling no sense of urgency to read it until it got a mention at Early Word...and then it made it to the top of my TBR list.

The book: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

The story: As a child, Grace was attacked by wolves. She miraculously made it out alive, and ever since has had a fascination with the wolves in the woods behind her house. Now a teenager, Grace is particularly captivated by one wolf in particular - the one with the yellow eyes. When another student at her school turns up dead, the wolves are fingered, and a hunt ensues. Grace runs into the woods in an attempt to stop the hunt and comes face to face with those yellow eyes - on an injured human.

The verdict: Twilight, but with a werewolf and better writing. Absent parents and unimportant friends? Check! Teen inexplicably in love with supernatural being? Check! Changing the rules everyone knows about said supernatural being? Check! Teen girl anxious to "just do it" while supernatural would-be mate hesitates? Check!

But...but...but...Stiefvater's writing makes the difference. Both writers know how to tell a good story that grabs readers and doesn't let go, but Stiefvater finds a way to convey the story with more "show" and less "tell." Alternating narration between Grace (human) and Sam (wolf/human) is amazingly effective at telling the story without it getting too sappy or overwrought. While Grace is fairly two-dimensional, Sam is more than just a shape-shifter, he's a musician, and music helps him make sense of the world.

P.S. I love that Maggie's last name means "stepfather" in German and that she includes a passage in German in the novel!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Little Victories

I am certainly not one for quotes, but...Margaret Mead once said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." Perhaps that's a bit of a bold statement to make in relation to the announcement that Bloomsbury will be publishing Justine Larbalestier's book Liar with a new cover, but I think it's rather fitting, and I consider it a victory, albeit a small one, against racism*.

The original cover choice smacked of racism and served only to reinforce the idea that books with black people featured on the cover don't sell. The new cover is more than I think anyone could've asked for; they could've just gone with the Australian cover like Justine initially requested, but Bloomsbury when whole hog, and the cover will not only feature a photo of a girl who looks a LOT more like Micah (though I will say, not exactly her), but it will be in color!

Of course, the battle is only everyone needs to go and buy it! Thankfully, it's an awesome novel, so getting it into bookstores and libraries shouldn't be a challenge - but it needs to sell and it needs to circulate. Making this happen is the responsibility of booksellers and librarians, who need to go forth and feature the novel in displays, booktalk it, handsell it, and do whatever it takes to get it into readers' hands.

* This whole controversy kinda reminded me of when Magic Johnson had to fight (and commit has own money) to get Starbucks to open a stores in black communities. When Starbucks was initially approached their response was "black people don't drink our coffee." Seriously? Maybe if you opened up a store in a black neighborhood, they would. And they did.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Finding New Homes for Old ARCs

The Parade of Awesome is winding down, and I'm utterly exhausted. It's been a crazy busy summer, and I never even saw the Harry Potter exhibit or movie. In the last week I've travelled back from my two-month stint in Chicago, lazed around on the beach for a few days, and sadly, become computerless. Next week, I move to Virginia, but also head off for a week at the beach before getting down to brass tacks and starting my new job. Talk about a time of transition.

As I pack of my life, I keep coming across more and more ARCs that I've already read and am not sure what I should with them. There are a few that are still-to-be-released that I figure I'll share with my new middle schoolers (Collins' Catching Fire, Dashner's Maze Runner, Chadda's The Devil's Kiss, Brown's Hate List), but there are a few more that are either too mature for middle schoolers (Larbalestier's Liar and Cashore's Fire), already published (Carey's Unknowns, Wolfson's Cold Hands, Warm Heart, Friedman's The Importance of Wings, Gill's Soul Enchilada, Grant's Gone), or both (Kaye's Demon Chick, Wizner's Castration Celebration, Noel's Evermore)...and I have no idea what to do with them.

I'm not packing them up and hauling them to Virginia. I thought about raffling them off on the blog, but I move on Monday, and I think it would be a logistical nightmare to ship them off to individuals. Chucking them just seems like such a waste.

Anyone want to take these off my hands or have a great idea about what I should do with them?