Friday, September 30, 2011

September Book Birthdays



Today YA Confidential is celebrating all the YA book birthdays for the month of September. We want to wish a huge Happy Book Birthday to every author who had a book come out this September! We tried to hit every YA book that came out this month in our Goodreads montage that appears at the end of this post, but if we forgot something, leave a comment!

Since there are SO many great books coming out this month (I counted 81!), each of us has chosen a September release we want to highlight and recommend. (We started out trying to pick favorites, but each of us had too many! Narrowing it down was very hard for us to do.) We'd also love to hear from you in the comments: which September releases stood out for you? Were there any you spent all summer waiting for?


YA CONFIDENTIAL'S SEPTEMBER HIGHLIGHTS:

Karen's Pick:
THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS by Rae Carson
(description from Amazon:)
Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.

Elisa is the chosen one.

But she is also the younger of two princesses. The one who has never done anything remarkable, and can’t see how she ever will.

Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs her to be the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.

And he’s not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies, seething with dark magic, are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people’s savior, and he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.

Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.

Most of the chosen do.

Karen says: Gripping adventures, a lovable and courageous main character, and masterful writing.

Cristin's Pick:
THE NAME OF THE STAR by Maureen Johnson
(description from Amazon:)
The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it's the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper events of more than a century ago.

Soon "Rippermania" takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man police believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him. Even her roommate, who was walking with her at the time, didn't notice the mysterious man. So why can only Rory see him? And more urgently, why has Rory become his next target? In this edge-of-your
-seat thriller, full of suspense, humor, and romance, Rory will learn the truth about the secret ghost police of London and discover her own shocking abilities.

Cristin says: I was a teenage girl from the south who wanted to live in London, and Maureen's distinctive sense of humor comes through on every page.

Alexandra's Pick:
DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE by Laini Taylor
(description from Amazon:)
Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages--not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers--beautiful, haunted Akiva--fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

Alexandra says: Laini Taylor's version of urban fantasy is everything I always thought the genre should be: gritty, dark, and mysterious. Combined with her beautiful prose, the book is near impossible to put down.



Sara's Pick:
THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER by Michelle Hodkin
(description from Amazon:)
Mara Dyer doesn't believe life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there. It can.

She believes there must be more to the accident she can't remember that killed her friends and left her strangely unharmed. There is.

She doesn't believe that after everything she's been through, she can fall in love. She's wrong.


Sara says: Total, total, total page-turner. I devoured this book--and I absolutely can't wait for the next in the series to come out. *checks how long I have to wait* *cries*  

Alison's Pick

PERFECT by Ellen Hopkins
(description from Amazon:)
Everyone has something, someone, somewhere else that they’d rather be. For four high-school seniors, their goals of perfection are just as different as the paths they take to get there. A riveting and startling companion to the bestselling Impulse, Ellen Hopkins’s Perfect exposes the harsh truths about what it takes to grow up—and grow into our own selves. Because everyone wants to be perfect, but when perfection loses its meaning, how far will you go?


Alison saysIt's raw. It's edgy. It's REAL. And in beautiful, poignant free verse, Hopkins conveys the exhilaration and the consequences of striving to live up to expectations formed from birth. And being who you are, instead of who you’re expected to be.


Cambria's Pick
ASHES by Ilsa J. Bick
(description from Amazon:)
An electromagnetic pulse flashes across the sky, destroying every electronic device, wiping out every computerized system, and killing billions. Alex hiked into the woods to say good-bye to her dead parents and her personal demons. Now desperate to find out what happened after the pulse crushes her to the ground, Alex meets up with Tom—a young soldier—and Ellie, a girl whose grandfather was killed by the EMP.

For this improvised family and the others who are spared, it’s now a question of who can be trusted and who is no longer human.



Cambria saysThe setting! The darkness! The high stakes! I read this book in one sitting and my heart raced the whole time. AND I had to sleep with a nightlight on. WITH my dog on the bed. AND a heavy duty flashlight on my nightstand. It's creepy good.




SEPTEMBER BOOK MONTAGE!


What was your favorite September release?


Witch Song
The Predicteds
The Eleventh Plague
Torrent
Ultraviolet
Notes from an Accidental Band Geek
Forbidden Embrace
Shut Out
Midnight Frost
The Shattering
Blood
Velvet
The Princess Curse
Vanish
Sweet Venom
The Beginning of After
All These Things I've Done
The Hidden
Isle of Night
Envy
}



Thursday, September 29, 2011

Writing from the TEEN PERSPECTIVE.

Every Thursday, we post a question for our followers--and every Saturday, one of the commenters will be selected to choose a title from our Vault! ARCs, signed books, awesome books... Anything we have--you get to choose.


Today's question:

What do you find most challenging as an adult trying to capture the teen perspective in your story? Or, as a teen, what things in YA books do you think get the teen perspective wrong? (Or right?)

Our answers:

Cambria: For me, the most challenging thing is not to trivialize something my character may be going through just because it's not important to Adult Me. Getting dumped by a boyfriend may not be the end of the world in the grand scheme of things (and is less important than, say, not being able to pay the mortgage). BUT, it sure can feel like the end of the world to a teen and I have to consciously remember that feeling if it's something my character is going to go through.

Alison: Keeping my inner teen on at all times - not slipping into adult mode and being all preachy and stuff. And I just want to rescue my babies - save them from any pain. I blame it on the mommy in me. It's tortuous when they have their All is Lost moment.

Alexandra: I often want to give my teen characters the hindsight and perspective I've gained as an adult. Which, of course, would defeat the purpose of writing teen characters. Sometimes it's hard to let my characters make mistakes (hardest when they're similar to mistakes I made as a teen) without intervening and bringing in my magic author wand and giving them just a teensy bit more experience, or the knowledge to not date that certain boy or girl who is only trouble, or to not care what that mean judgmental group at school thinks. But then I remember that the most rewarding part about reading AND writing teen characters is watching them GAIN that perspective, experience, and hindsight. If I give it to them before it's earned, then I've just taken away my favorite part.

Karen: Teen voice. However, most of my characters aren't your typical teens. They're old souls or look like teens but are actually much older or they grew up in unique environments. Plus, I think some people have this expectation that all teen characters need to sound a certain way. When in reality, teens don't all sound, think, or act alike--not even close.

Cristin: I think the most challenging thing for me is that I had a very atypical high school experience, so I often don't even have memories to fall back on when trying to create an authentic, fictional teen life. I never had a big high school romance or went to a dance or got drunk at a party, so I have to just guess what those experiences would be like based on what I see in movies, TV, other YA books, and the teenagers I know/have known. And I'm never sure if I'm getting any of it right.

Sara: I remember what being a teen was like. Vividly. But I have only my memories and experiences to work off of (with authenticity), so I've had some difficulty creating teen characters who think/act/feel completely different than how I would have (especially when I first starting writing YA). But I think that's where learning to really inhabit characters comes into play. Just like their real life counterparts, teen characters are unique with their own voices and their own philosophies--and capturing those things in a story can be one of the most rewarding parts :)

YOUR TURN! 

And happy Thursday!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

JUDGING BY THE COVER

It’s Under Cover Wednesday so I figured what better topic to discuss than, yup, you guessed it…BOOK COVERS!

I discussed YA cover love with three of our savvy spies: Lynsay, Laura and Lennon. (L Triple Threat!)

I was cruel and made them choose ONE cover throughout all of time as their favorite (not story, just the cover). I wasn’t surprised when they chose totally different books. (Let’s face it; there are gazillions to choose from.) What fascinated me is that Lynsay and Laura are almost polar opposites with their preferences, and Lennon’s favorite cover featured the thing she said annoys her. See for yourself.

When I asked Laura about her preferences she had this to say:
“I hate cluttered covers where images are so varying and many that it is distracting from the main focal point (The Mortal Instruments). In saying that, covers that are too simple aren’t very gripping. While they may convey their point well, they aren’t that great to look at.”
She gave an example of Forbidden.

On the flip side, Lynsay explained her love of simplicity:
“I might consider myself a minimalist in this regard. I really like the cover of Sweethearts by Sara Zarr. It's very simple and tells you almost nothing about the book…The little heart cookie makes you smile, but it doesn't really make you form an opinion or idea because you almost can't.”

I couldn’t help but notice how similar yet very different those two covers are.

Lennon’s fav pick was Hush Hush, but I’m wondering if she’s a Gemini (good and bad twin in one) like me because of her love/hate relationship with covers. Check it:
“It had the aura of darkness and the fallen angel thing helped a bit too. My only pet peeve with covers is overly preppy teenaged boys or girls who are half-naked. It's really annoying and offensive, like someone's only going to read it based on the hot guy without a shirt. Not all teenaged girls are that hormonal.”


On second thought, Patch is far from overly preppy so maybe that’s why the half-naked thing works in this case.

Laura’s favorite cover selection was Incarceron:
“The colors are kind of lifeless and unexciting, but the font – oh, the font! It melts my heart. The layout is just so gorgeous and well-organized too, with the mixture of gears and things in the background to signify the steampunk presence. And I love how the key remains the centerpiece despite everything else going on around it. It’s just so well-balanced and symbolic.”


Speaking of well-balanced. I also asked the spies if they paid attention to the back cover at all. Lynsay was quick to mention Two Way Street.
“On the front of this book it has the main character girl looking into the truck of a car, and if you flip to the back, it has the main character boy looking under the hood; the car goes across the spine and everything. I always thought that was cool.”

Sorry about the odd secondary cover image and the white box on the photo, but it was the only one I could find of the front and back. However, if those two little blocks annoyed you, then you'll probably agree with another pet peeve Lynsay mentioned:
"I HATE going into a book store, and there are giant stickers over the cover art, title, author, summary on back, etc. It drives me nuts! If I'm going to explore this book, I need to see what's on the cover, and what it's called, and who wrote it. I will literally take the time to peel the sticker and move it if I want to see something bad enough."

Laura pays attention to the back of books too.
“One of my favorite books of all time, Delirium by Lauren Oliver, has the most immaculately designed back cover. I think it shows great dedication and creativity when the beauty of the front cover is also present in the back. It fits so well too, when the theme is carried out. So, yes, I pay an enormous amount of attention to the back cover, maybe even as much as I would to the front.”

So does Lennon.
“I do pay attention to the back cover artwork but more so the writing on the back.”

I also polled some teens in the Young Adult Book Club group on Goodreads. Some other top cover picks:

EverlastingThe EverafterNevermoreImaginary GirlsRevolutionUnearthlyFalling UnderMarked

Several teens weighed in on pet peeves or soft spots.
  • Most weren’t a fan of covers with just a face, or half a face or head that fades away, or just a hand, or an eye.
  • A few mentioned their love for flowers.
  • Some liked mostly black backgrounds while two teens thought it was cliché and overdone.
When I asked, How important is the cover of a book when you're considering reading it? Everyone agreed that it plays somewhat of a factor.

“It's inevitable that people will look at covers to discern what lies within, it has to be what catches your eye, and really makes you think without giving it away.” ~Lynsay

“The cover is the first thing you see, the thing that draws you in, the first thing you know about a book. It’s just like meeting a person for the first time.” ~Laura

The cover is what catches my attention. Slightly, I judge more on the title and summary then the cover, but I wouldn't want to read a book with a butterfly on the cover smiling and singing or whatever, unless it was a zombie butterfly. That'd be awesome.” ~Lennon

Zombie butterflies would be awesome. *Passes suggestion to zombie lover, Fem Fatale.*

So basically, it’s the same old story: Cover love and loathing is as subjective as the stories the covers are representing. What one readers likes, another dislikes. Sounds familiar, eh?

All of this fun cover conversation did prove that the popular saying of “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is good advice but no one follows it. We DO judge books by their cover. I could write a snazzy closing statement but Laura already summed it up brilliantly.
“I mean, who doesn’t judge a book by its cover? Human beings are judgmental creatures. We can deny it all we want, but it’s true. If we didn’t care so much about covers, why do we go to such lengths to pretty them? Let’s face it; they are a quintessential marketing tool. Well, that and they’re nice to look at…most of the time.”

What about all you ninja readers? What’s your favorite YA cover?
I’d ask if you judge books by their cover but we already know you do. Yes, even YOU. It's, okay. Don’t be ashamed. We won't judge you. But we will judge your book covers. ;)


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Teen Roundtable: Book Banning

From the uproar over Speak to the recent flare-up in Missouri, book banning is something the YA community is very passionate about. But one perspective that’s often missing from the discussion is that of the people it affects the most: teen readers.

So in honor of Banned Books Week, we got our Teen Spies together to ask them how they feel about the issue, and I think some of their answers will surprise you!

But first, our pre-chat conversation may not have been entirely (or at all) on-topic, but it was sure entertaining:

Alyssa: I can’t wait for Breaking Dawn!

Lennon: Me neither! Me and my friends are going to the midnight premiere!

Cristin: I heard they're not having Edward chew into Bella's stomach to get the baby out, though. I was totally looking forward to seeing how they'd do that! 

Alexandra: WHAT??

Lennon: Aww!

Alexandra: But I WANTED to see Rob rip into Kirsten's stomach! 

Laura: I would actually pay to see that! 

Alyssa: That was my most anticipated moment! What!?!?!? 

Cristin: I might be wrong. I don't know how else they'd get killer baby out.

Alyssa: The regular way? With scissors? 

Cristin: SCISSORS? 

Alyssa: LOL
Cristin: Girl, how are people delivering babies in Canada if you think that's the regular way?!? 
Lennon: That won't cut through vampire skin.
Alexandra: Bella's still human though, right?  LOL, imagine our blog post if this is all we talk about. "TEENS WANT TO SEE EDWARD RIP INTO BELLA'S WOMB IN TWILIGHT MOVIE." 

Luckily, this is not all our blog post is about. We’re totally saving the rest of our womb-ripping material for when the movie comes out! 

Now, onto the banned books! 

Have you read any banned books? Does a book being banned make you more or less interested in it? 

Alyssa: The Catcher in the Rye is one my favourite books, and I think it's ridiculous that it's been banned. I read it a few months ago and couldn't understand why such a big deal was made of it.  I’ve read worse than Holden’s vocabulary.

Plus, teens are open to even worse behaviour than foul language. We experience racism and bullying and violence all the time.

Lennon: Half of what I read has been banned. I don't think books should be banned, because writing is like art and art should not be censored. 

Also, I noticed that a lot of banned books had to do with gay relations, and since I have a friend who is gay and his parents don't accept that or know how to deal with it, he would have no idea how to handle it without books and he could have committed suicide.

Katie: I have read Speak and Twilight. I don’t see why they would have banned those two. There was nothing extremely inappropriate in them.

Lynsay: I’ve read TTYL by Lauren Myracle. I remember it being pretty, umm, inappropriate, but it was a long time ago, so I might've just been looking at it from a too-young perspective. I read it when I was like twelve, and it had sexual stuff and the girl had a thing with her teacher. 

Alison: OMG, Lynsay my twelve-year-old just read TTYL.

Lynsay: Don't panic, Alison. It wasn't gut-wrenching or anything. 

And all of our teen spies said that a book being banned actually made them more interested in the book. So start adding some extra cursing and sex to your manuscripts!

Whereas most people argue it’s ultimately a parent’s responsibility as to what their child is and is not allowed to read, which has led to the “restricted zone” compromise in Missouri, our spies were adamant that it was actually their responsibility. They don’t think their parents should have a say.

Alyssa: We know the difference between right and wrong, even if some of us don't always go along with it. My parents aren't really supportive of my reading habit, which sounds weird all on its own, so I don't want their input in what I read.

Lennon: I think parents should have an opinion, but it's my life and my mind, so they shouldn't be able to stop me if you want to read something.

Katie: How can a book hurt someone? I understand that people want to protect young readers, but ultimately it’s up to the reader to determine if it is a good or bad book.

Alyssa: If my parents forbid me to read a book, I would read it behind their backs, honestly. 

Lennon: I have to do that with my grandparents. Read stuff without them knowing. 

Laura: I know when I’m not ready for a book. When I was eleven, I read a book that contained a very sexual relationship between a young girl and her best friend’s father. It made me feel so ill that I had to put the book away. I finished it two years later when I was old enough to handle it.

Is there anything that SHOULD get a book banned?

Lennon: Nothing should be banned, but there should be a separate section so you don't open a book and see something about some animal-person action like in Sookie Stackhouse. 

Alyssa: Having characters who rely on their partner to exist should be banned. And anti-feminist lit, because it's not fair. I would support a ban on books like that 100%.
Books with characters and situations like in Halo and Hush, Hush influence people’s thinking in the wrong way. They shouldn't be published, especially not for a genre like YA where readers are impressionable, because girls shouldn't depend on guys like Nora does.

Laura: YES! I agree with Alyssa. Anti-feminist themes in literature disgust me. I don't believe any woman should be subjected to it. 

A fascinating discussion about feminism and gender roles in YA lit ensued (guys, our Teen Spies are smart), but we’re saving it for another time, so you’ll have to stay tuned! 

Swearing: how much is too much?

Alyssa: I have no issue with language. Every teen I know has a dirty mouth. Even eleven year olds I know. 

Lennon: Nothing, we say it all. But I don't because I'm a good Christian, southern girl. :)
  
Laura: Unless it reflects the character or situation, language is unnecessary. Teens are subject to and use it every day. It doesn’t need to be encouraged in literature. Language isn't a deal breaker for me, though. I use it...a lot. But when I'm reading a book that contains foul language, I'm not thinking about how it affects me; I'm thinking about how it affects others.

Sexuality: how much is too much?
Lennon: Nothing, honestly. If the author is being realistic, then know that people get preggers in as low as sixth grade. And sixth grade is when my friend figured out he was gay. But at the same time, I don't want to read about people getting’ it on all the time.

Alyssa: Yeah. Definitely. Sometimes I'm reading around my parents or other relatives and I feel uncomfortable!

Lennon: Yeah, I’d like a warning please.

Karen: So if they put content labels on books like they do movies (sexual content, violence, etc), you guys would like that?

Katie: I would. I strongly believe a book rating system would be more effective than banning. Therefore the reader knows what they might be getting into.

Lennon: Maybe. I mean, some things I read I don't want my parents to know I'm reading about.

Alexandra: Okay, so if the rating was right on the cover, it might not be helpful because it would broadcast to everyone you were reading a book with whatever in it.

Laura: Right, of course. No rating on the cover.

Are there any important issues you don’t feel enough there are enough books addressing or addressing in a way that resonates with you? 

Alyssa: Drugs and alcohol. They're romanticized (I heard that from a person I respect very much who went through a very rough time) and the rehab-process is way too rapid. 

Lennon: Teen parents. TV is glorifying it, and it's annoying. Teen pregnancy is huge all over America, but TV shows make it seem like nothing. You are not ready to have a baby in high school. want a baby more than anything, but I'm not giving up my life for one just yet.

Laura: Mental health issues. And bulimia. I've heard about a lot of bulimia books, but the majority of them aren't really written properly or well-researched.

Alyssa: Also, bullying for girls (physical) is hardly ever shown. Girls get beat up too. 

Lennon: And gay suicide, and suicide in general.

So as you can see, our teens have a variety of opinions, but there is one thing they all agree on:

They want to be the ones deciding what they read.

They don’t want teachers, librarians or parents keeping books from them, and they don’t want authors self-censoring their language, portrayals of violence/sexuality, or treatment of controversial subjects on their behalf or to avoid offending the gatekeepers.

They want authenticity, no matter how hard it is. They can handle it. 


Want our amazing Teen Spies to critique your first page? The deadline for our first Teen Crit is today! Email us your first 250 words now!

Monday, September 26, 2011

LGBT* YA

The #YesGayYA discussion captivated me for a couple of days while it was going on. As someone who thinks sexuality labels and boxes are pointless to begin with, I was, of course, like “heck yeah gay YA!” So when it came time for me to come up with a blogger’s choice post, I knew I wanted to write about it in some fashion. Then it occurred to me that a lot of people we were hearing from on the matter were adults. I wanted to know what the teens thought about it. They gave me some honest answers, full of things I never expected.

The bolded quotes are from the spies, and the bolded words head the ideas that came up most often while I was corresponding with them.

“A person's sexual preference doesn't define them completely.”

The spies noticed something in common amongst LGBT books: most of them are about relationships and sexuality. Which makes sense, because being confused about one’s sexuality is so scary and hard during teenage years, and it creates necessary and interesting subject matter. But as one very astute spy pointed out, people aren’t just made up of sexuality labels.

And she made me realize I was stuck in my expectations for LGBT literature. When I went to the library to check out books like KISSING KATE and KEEPING YOU A SECRET, I was looking for explorations of sexuality. What I wasn’t looking for (and shame on me for this) were books featuring gay main characters doing all the other things we see straight main characters doing in books.

I think a necessary next step for LGBT YA literature (one that authors like Malinda Lo are already tackling) is to take gay main characters outside of the box of struggling with sexuality or a relationship and let them flourish in all kinds of situations, like fantasy books, and dystopians, and high school comedies of manners. I think all kinds of books are necessary, and I would love to see the subject broadened. It might open up the genre to people who are unfamiliar with or uncertain about LGBT subjects, as well. If someone was a little less than comfortable with the idea of an explicitly physical gay romance (which one of our spies very delicately admitted to), having a book that focused on some other kind of plot might open up the genre to more people.

“It's boring to me when I'm reading only about a romance.”

YA seems really romance-heavy, doesn’t it? So imagine my surprise when a spy told me she did not like reading romances. Since LGBT books so often focus on relationships, she wasn’t as interested in reading them. And that’s something else I never considered—if a teen isn’t a fan of romance (and as I understand it, a lot of teen boys aren’t) then an LGBT book might not be something they’re likely to choose, just because of the probability of getting romance in the book.

It got me thinking about other kinds of books. How many action-packed dystopians are there with a gay main character? Or fantasy books with a gay princess? If a teen is looking for a non-contemporary read, they are far more unlikely to come across a book with an LGBT main character—or even side character. Teens who don’t want a romance, an ‘issue’ book, or a contemporary story probably aren’t very exposed to LGBT lit at all. While more and more books do include gay characters (like Alec from Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series), I don’t notice them nearly as much when I grab something from the genre sections.

“I have a friend who is gay and [his] parents don't accept that or know how to deal with it, [and without outside information] he would have no idea how to handle it.”

There’s a reason so many of the LGBT books are about sexuality—and a reason it's so needed as a subject, and this is it. Some teens don’t have other resources—they don’t have parents who would understand (or who would even allow them to still live in the house), they don’t go to a school where anyone is out, or they’re just uncertain and afraid and don’t want to talk about it. While one of our spies goes to a school that has lots of openly LGBT students, and, in fact, is a school that attracts gay or bi students, another spy said, “I don't know one openly LGTBQ person.” This is probably because, at her school, “it's ‘wrong’ to be gay/bi. We have a lot of homophobes.”

Books can be a great resource for teens who don’t have anywhere else to turn. The internet can be overwhelming, friends can seem too judgmental, but books can answer all kinds of questions. But even books can’t always be a safe haven. Some gay teens have to hide them from their parents. This about the same friend referenced in the bolded quote above: “if [his parents] knew he was checking something out about being gay...not good.”

Missing points of reference.

Many younger teens might not be comfortable reading about sexuality at all. Whether it's because there's no point of reference (not every town or school or home is open to or accepting of or even willing to acknowledge LGBT issues,) or because frank talk about sex can make people uncomfortable, sexuality (and it doesn't matter whose) isn't always the easiest subject to read about. And I don't think any sexuality (including straight) gets a particularly accurate portrayal in the media. Combine that with all the myriad factors that go into what a teen is or isn't exposed to and how much they might know about LGBT, and you have a really complicated mix—not every teen can handle the same subject matter.

The same spy who is bored by romance goes to a school where almost nobody is openly gay, and she said she feels that “the books seem too advanced for me.” She added that “Most people around me aren't gay, and if they are, they're in the closet." It's a missing point of reference, and it makes it hard for her to identify with the stories, sometimes. Another spy told me that "I have no real personal experience with the topic," and that makes it harder for her to connect to certain stories or certain characters.

I saw this as kind of a nasty wake-up call, and I'll tell you why. It's in the same vein as looking at Malinda Lo's stats on LGBT books. The issues just don't seem prevalent enough. There really aren't enough books representing diverse characters, (especially for kids who want to read genre fiction). It can be easy to forget, when you're interested in a topic like this and seek it out (like I have done) that diversity can be hard to come by. And for busy teens whose lives focus mostly on growing up and their own problems (as they should!), it can be hard to develop interest in something when they can't personally connect with an issue.

Girls vs. boys

Since I'm Fem Fatale and feminism is always on the brain, I had to ask the teens about something I’ve noticed: that there are way more gay male characters than females. They did notice that there were more books about boys than about girls. One spy suggested it could be that there are more female readers of YA, which opens up the opportunity for the “gay best friend” stereotype. Another said the lack of girl main characters “infuriates a lot of my friends and I have to agree. I'd like to see more of those books.”

Recommendations

If you’re looking for a book that features a gay protagonist in a fantasy world and a plot that has loss and adventure woven in with the exploration of sexuality, I highly recommend ASH by Malinda Lo. And if you are looking for a contemporary read, KISSING KATE by Lauren Myracle is a lovely, heart-wrenching and heart-warming book about a girl trying to discover who she really is.

*  *  *
CAN’T GET ENOUGH OF TEEN OPINIONS ON CONTROVERSIAL SUBJECTS? COME BACK TOMORROW TO FIND OUT WHAT OUR SPIES SAID ABOUT BANNED BOOKS!

IF YOU WANT A CHANCE TO HAVE THE FIRST 250 WORDS OF YOUR MANUSCRIPT CRITIQUED BY THE SPIES, THE DEADLINE TO SUBMIT IS TOMORROW! GO HERE FOR DETAILS.


And, if you have anything to say to us (or me specifically) on this subject (which I didn't even come close to fully encompassing) that you may be uncomfortable posting as a comment, please don't hesitate to e-mail us at yaconfidential [at] gmail [dot] com.

A HUGE thanks to the teens for being so honest with me! We love them so much. :)

xox
Fem

*To include the Q or not to include the Q. I left it out because I feel that “queer” is too often used as an insult, and I know people who aren’t fans of the word. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Comment of the Week!

And this week's Comment of the Week is from...

ANONYMEET!

On whether she would go back to high school if given the chance:
Sometimes I think - Oh, hale yes. I'd go back but ONLY if it was as a do-over. As the person I am today. I would have totally different experiences, be easier on and kinder to people (including myself!).

But then I think - high school is difficult for everyone and kind to few. Even if I went back as the more mature, less judgmental me, it would still be high school and it would still be a trial. It wouldn't be perfect high school re-imagined.

So, no. Ultimately I wouldn't go back.
We love the mix of idealism (kinder! more self-loving!) with realism (high school kind of sucks no matter what!). Those two impulses were what almost everyone seemed to be struggling to reconcile in their response to the prompt.

A little more about Anonymeet:
Code Name: The Dragon Lady

Legend: Anonymeet is such a super-secret agent that her code name has a code name. She does not use Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or any other social media. Or does she?

She is excited to partcipate in YA Confidential, which may be the coolest new site in the YA blogosphere, and to win a prize because she has never won anything before, ever, even though she's recovering from a mild sweepstakes addiction. Her family worries this win will go to her head and cause a relapse.

Anonymeet is writing an action/adventure about a young woman conscripted into a rebel army in a future America which has been taken over by terrorists.

Known Whereabouts: anonymeet.livejournal.com
She's taking home an ARC of The Carrier of the Mark. Have you got your dream ARC or signed book from THE VAULT picked out yet? Make sure you comment next week for a chance to win, and thanks to everyone for your contribution this week to the fabulous community we're building here at YA Confidential!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Tales From the Locker Room (And Other Stalk-Worthy Places)

Okay, so I really don’t stalk the locker room, but I do pick up on some interesting things in my classroom and in the hallways. I've bribed a few former students into doing my dirty lurking. And I have some classes willing to answer some questions (cause they LOVE me).


AND I thought I'd share my findings with YOU! (Aren't you so lucky?!)

Here’s the low down on all things teen (at least this month, in my school):



What they’re watching: Billy the Exterminator, Degrassi, The Big Bang Theory, That 70’s Show, Friends, Cupcake Wars (Food Network), Jersey Shore, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Royal Pains, Switched at Birth, Pretty Little Liars, Bad Girls Club, Sons of Anarchy, Top Gear, Pawn Stars, First 48, NCIS, Boondocks, Lizard Lick Towing, Martin, Sportscenter, SVU, Spongebob, World’s Dumbest, iCarly, Glee, Awkward

(Alison aside: Did anyone else catch Lizard Lick Towing?! My kids swear it’s the best show evah.)


What they’re listening to: Lil’ Wayne, Drake, Adele, Lady Antebellum, Hororcore, Guns N Roses, Ke$ha, Survivor, Trina, Tupac, ICP, A Day to Remember, Shanti, Mad Cobra, Cataracs, Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry, Ace Hood, Hed PE, Big and Rich, Garth Brooks, ACDC, J Cole, Luke Bryan, Workout, Kenye, Eric Church, Eminem, Santana, Dubstep, Beenie Man

Um…they listen to pretty much everything. Okay, maybe not classical. Or sixties. Or like, jazzy rhythm and blues. But their interests are pretty well-rounded.



What they look forward to on the weekends: So yeah—some of them are looking to party and drink, but here’s what else they had to say…

Xbox, exercising, blogging, weekend trips, SATURDAY MORNING CARTOONS, eating cereal all day, sleeping, clubbing, shopping, visiting family, PS3, beach

(Alison squee moment: I remember looking forward to Saturday morning cartoons!)



Movies they’re excited about seeing: Lion King 3D, Drive, Straw Dogs, Abduction, Apollo 18, Paranormal Activity 3, The Avengers, Money Ball, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, Dream House, Harold and Kumar, Bucky Larson, Transformers 3, Planet of the Apes.

One of our teen spies is also super excited about The Great Gatsby movie coming out next year. ME. TOO.


Hot topic on Facebook: all the recent changes.




Words of the month:

SWAG: apperance, style, or the way he or she presents themselves

(my kids say this all the time)

Dude, cool shoes. Swag.

That shirt is swag.



My kids like to make up words as much as I do. And then reel from the disappointment at discovering half the world is saying it too. Here’s one my students coined, and then I found on Urban Dictionary.

BIZNATCH: it is what it looks like. Urban Dictionary calls it “retard English” for well, you know. A female dog.

And according to one of my spies, bruh seems to get tossed around—A LOT.

(Alison caveat: While some of my teens do tend to say “like,” “dude,” and “bro” every fifth word, you don’t want to portray it THAT realistically in your own stories. More on that in a future post.)


What they’re sayin’:

Don’t hate, cause you ain't.

I’m about to go ham on _____________

I’d never heard this one (yes, I do live in a cave), but “to go ham” translates “to give 200%” or “to respond violently to someone who disrespects you.”


Seen while creepin’ some walls:

Dude, she has a bf.

So, soccer has a goalie, doesn’t mean you can’t score.


(Alison reveal: creatively borrowed this from a former student’s wall, then realized it went viral on the internet. Whatever. Still using it.)


Random convos heard here, there, and everywhere:

Teen Exhibit A (after inhaling a pound of sunflower seeds): Can I get water? My throat’s really dry.

Teen Exhibit B (A’s best friend): Does your personality need water because it’s really dry.

And after incorrectly solving a math problem:

Girl: You’re wrong.

Boy: Your face is wrong.


You need some ice for that burn?

*sigh*

I love my kids.

My kids talk junk to each other cause that’s how they roll. They don’t mean it. And if they did, they probably wouldn’t be sitting near each other, let alone talking to each other about a math problem. They make up names for each other and bicker lightly about petty crap, but they also know that they got the other’s back.

Signs of genuine affection. AND hilarious. Some days are pure entertainment.


And finally, stuff that’s going on, what they’re having issues with:

1) Promiscuity—in teen terms: skanky dress—mostly a female opinion, but I’m sure some guys feel that way too.

2) Facebook drama





PS—while this monthly feature will generally be light and fun, I want to make it meaningful. I’ve got a few “spies” and two classes who keep this old lady young and updated. And they tell me everything I ask them (sometimes it’s a little TMI). So, if you’ve got particular teen things you want to know for future Tales from the Locker Room, leave a comment. Or send it in an email. And as long as it’s something within the ethical realm of my teacherly self to ask, I will.

Have a great weekend!

Agent A—out.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Would YOU go back?

Every Thursday, we post a question for our followers--and every Saturday, one of the commenters will be selected to choose a title from our Vault! ARCs, signed books, awesome books... Anything we have--you get to choose.


Today's question:


For adults: If you could go back to your teenage years, would you? And if so, would you do anything different?

For anyone still in high school: If you could wake up tomorrow and find one thing about being in high school different, what would it be? Or would you keep everything the same?

OUR ANSWERS

Sara: I would go back. In a heartbeat. As long as I could remember what I've learned along the way. One of the things I'd change? I wouldn't be intimidated by anyone who didn't deserve it. It's taken me SUCH a long time to realize that the only people who deserve it are the people whom I highly respect. Talented writers. Intelligent, kind people. NOT the mean girls who bully intimidation out of people. Yes. Yes, I would go back to change that one thing, among many others.

Karen: I'd go back in a heartbeat. But only with my current knowledge and wisdom in tact. I'd change the one night that has given me nightmares since I was 16. The night I lost a guy I loved very much in a car accident. In my do-over, I wouldn't let him drive. We'd stay at home and watch movies. I never stop wondering how my life, and his family's life, would be different if he had lived. Oh, and I'd write novels sooner. I'd stop telling myself I need umpteen more years of school to make a living at writing stories.

Alexandra: It might be simply that I haven't had enough distance from my teenage years, but right now I can't say that I would want to go back, even a little bit. I do know what I would do differently, and if I could write my teenage self a letter, I would tell that girl to value herself. I would say don't be friends with that group who treats you like you don't matter just because you don't think you're good enough for better friends. Don't date that boy just because he's the first person to show interest in you and you don't think any of the other boys could possibly ever want you. Wait for someone worthwhile who you actually like and who actually likes you for you--it's okay if you only have one friend in high school, or if you're 18 before you get your first kiss. You are worth far more than you give yourself credit for, and you should surround yourself with people who lift you up and support you, not who drag you down and make you feel so inadequate.

Cristin: NEVER NEVER NEVER. At least, not if I had to go back to my own personal high school experience. There is a reason I'm a YA writer who will never write about high school. I lived that misery once and have no desire to revisit it. Now, if I could live somewhere else and have some other high school life... maybe. But I was a forty-year-old trapped in a sixteen-year-old's body, so I'm not sure I'd have been happy or at ease with myself in any high school situation. Teenagers, you have my profound respect for what you go through. But don't worry, some day you'll get to grow up and be a well-adjusted sort-of-adult like me!!

Cambria: High school is something I'll always be thankful for because it proved to be one heck of a learning experience...but it's also something I'm not really keen on repeating. The whole thing was just awkward for me. My parents got divorced when I was in middle school so by the time I was a freshman, I was a new kid in a new state. I did things that Grown Up Me is still ashamed to admit...and I did those things all for the sake of fitting in. As wrong as some of it was, I also recognize that I had to make those mistakes in order to be the person I am now. I guess if I went back, I'd be too afraid I'd end up changing something that would screw up the Now. Haven't you ever seen Ashton Kutcher in The Butterfly Effect? Yeah. 'Nuff said.

Alison: I would not go back to teenage years, but if I got pushed into a plutonium-spiked Delorean that took me back to 1985, I would break out of my shy shell before going to college. And not use Sun-In on the hair. And...yeah, that's it.


By the way--did you know there's an entire site dedicated to writers who've written letters to their teen selves? DearTeenMe.com is pretty much amazing. The letters are heartfelt and inspirational--you should definitely check it out.


YOUR TURN!

Would you go back? We can't wait to read your answers

:)
 
Design by Small Bird Studios | All Rights Reserved