Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Teen Roundtable: What Have Adults Forgotten?

Once a month, we get our Teen Spies together to discuss a topic together. This month our question was...

What do you wish adults remembered about what it's like to be a teen?

But, as usual, we didn't always stick super-close to the topic, so read on for our Spies’ opinions on what adults just don't get about being a teenager, the author/blogger battles on Goodreads, and the worst books they've ever had to read. 

Cristin: What do you wish adults remembered about being a teenager? What don't parents/teachers/authors​ get about your lives?

Alison: My daughter just answered the question: "how to lighten up.”

Scotie: The fact that people are allowed to make mistakes. And have opinions. And think for themselves. And can do things without help. And that a simple grade isn't the end of the whole freaking world. Most importantly, that nothing is going to last forever. Why stress about something that you won't care about in a year? I mean, yeah, you should try your hardest but once you've worked your butt off, screw it and let the pieces fall where they may.

Erica: I always wish people would understand more that people are all different. I’ve always been very driven and know what I want to do, yet I feel like different people think I'm too young to have made decisions and baby me all the time.

Alexandra: What are you driven towards?

Erica: Just like what I want to do with college and my plans for the future. I've had the same plan for 4 yrs and every time I deviate from it, I end back up on the same path.

Cristin: So you wish people could see that not all teenagers are lost and directionless and still trying to figure out what they want from life?

Erica: Definitely.


Scotie: Okay, my inner activist has to throw this out there: the elderly people seem to have problems with people who are different than the norm when it comes to sexual attraction.

Cristin: Do you think that's because they've gotten more conservative with age, or just because they grew up in a different time?

Scotie: I think it's both. I know from experience, in my family and in my schooling. I'm for gay marriage and when I told my grandparents that they got all upset and said it was against God's will and all that crap and how I shouldn't feel that way. First of all, no one, NO ONE, can tell me what I should believe in, feel, think whatever, I don't care how freaking old you are. I can think for myself.

Rebecca: I agree with Scotie. I'm Catholic, anyway. Quite often my dad brings up things about gays and marriages, and he's even friends with this guy at work who’s gay, but I know he doesn't agree with it. I know he's old-ish and older people just don't really get it but I think us younger people are more open about it, at least I am.

Scotie: I understand what you are saying, Rebecca. A lot of people weren't raised to think it was okay, so they carry that with them. However, the younger generation has either been raised differently or just do certain thing to piss of the people who call us satanic freaks who will rot it hell. Not saying names...

Rebecca: Sometimes I wish the characters authors write were more realistic. I'm reading a book now and the girl is just falling over herself for this boy. It's quite ridiculous, considering one minute he's being nice and the next minute a jerk.

Cristin: So would you say that author is mischaracterizing teen girls?

Rebecca: Yes. I'm not saying we aren't boy-crazy, but it's a bit over the top. It also feels really rushed, like it has to happen right now. I wish the author had written the relationship slowly-slowly.

Erica: I agree with Rebecca, so many books I feel like there's no build up to a relationship. I feel like there's lots of examples of instant love where it's two pages later and the characters are massively in love.

Rebecca: I can tell it's not going to last. At times the boy is nice, and then the next minute he's all snarky and making fun of the girl. Girl, can't you put your hormones aside and see this guy is mostly an ass!

Scotie: Well, a lot of my friends, including myself, are drawn to the idea of love. The possiblity alone can make us think that we are in love with someone when really it's more being in love with the idea of a perfect love you read about all the time.

Cristin: I think love at first sight is an interesting concept that I would LIKE to see done well in a book, but I’m not sure I have.

Alexandra: As the resident unromantic, I think love at first sight is called pheromones that got too frisky. What I do think is possible is love at first conversation.

Gracie: I've never seen love at first sight done well either... and I don't believe in it, but one of my friends suggested that there could be like, knowing-this-is-the-pers​on-for-you at first sight.

Copil: I like the concept of Love at First Sight. And I think people think they are in love at first sight but the love develops later.

Rebecca: I agree with Alxandera. If it's love at first sight, it's based purely on attraction.

Erica: The book I've heard that did it well was Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight.

Cristin: I liked Statistical Probability a lot. I wouldn't say they actually fell in love in the book, but the seeds of it were definitely there.

Scotie: Can I ask a question? Has anyone had teachers/authority figures that have done or said something that you disapprove of? If so, did you say anything to them and what was their reaction?

Gracie: There've been some teachers I have disagreed with at times, but it's usually little things and I haven't been bold enough to talk to them about it.

Scotie: The only reason I ask is because there has been a LOT of problems relating to authority figures and wondered if anyone else has had that issue, and it related to the topic.

Lynsay: I just have a problem with a person in authority telling me to do something they don't do. I.e. hypocritical

Rebecca: Related to what Scotie said, lately authors have been putting their foot in it and bad mouthing bloggers. It's so disgraceful!

Erica: That whole author/blogger drama is ridiculous. Both parties need to just not be idiots, ha. Bloggers and authors both.

Rebecca: After hearing authors abuse bloggers, I instantly – and I mean instantly – took them off my reading shelf. IT'S JUST NOT COOL! But I wish bloggers didn't have to be so snarky. The authors have no right to abuse bloggers becasue of a bad review, but I wish bloggers would tone it down!

Scotie: I'm going to play the Devil's advocate, but I understand why someone could get upset. I am personally offended when people don't like what I've put a lot of time and effort into. I agree that it was the wrong way to retaliate, but I understand the authors’ anger.

Gracie: I think there's responsibility on both sides. I see reviews that aren't critical at all - just heaps of either negativity or positivity.

Erica: I have no issue, personally, posting negative reviews. If I do write a negative review, I point out what I liked, what I didn't like, and then I usually point out what others would like and why it wasn't the book for me.

Rebecca: Yeah, I do that too. There are a lot of reviews out their that didn't like a book and turn snarky and that's not how I 'd go about I didn't like. I'd be calm and state why I didn't like it AND give reasons. I would also try to say at least one nice thing about the book.


Scotie: Some book about wolves. I read it in like 3rd grade, and I hated reading until the middle of 6th grade. I ruined reading for me. I hated that book.

Gracie: I don't think I've ever hated a book... there are things in books that I hate sometimes, though.

Scotie: You would have hated this. It was like they got a lizard stoned and put it on a keyboard and that book is what it came up with.

Erica: There's probably only been about 5 books I've read that I truly loathed, like Cry the Beloved Country. That book was awful.

[Operative Tangent]

Cristin: Oh man, FRANKENSTEIN. I loathed that book. The man kept falling into a swoon and waking up four months later, and I was just like WOULD YOU DIE ALREADY.

Alexandra: Seriously? There were parts of Frankenstein I really liked! Although that entire middle section from the pov of the monster was torture.



Alexandra: And EW, JANE EYRE.

Cristin: Seriously?? You have the worst taste ever.


Alexandra: And Omg WUTHERING HEIGHTS. Good god, what the crap. Worst book ever.

Scotie: Really Alexandra? That’s the only classic book I want to read aside from Jane Eyre? Why didn't you like it?

Alexandra: Wuthering Heights is a) a frame story within a frame story--the most IRRITATING narrative contrivance and b) it is a soap opera with zero sympathetic characters

Erica: How can you not like Jane Eyre? I adore that book so much.

Gracie: Haha, I love how subjective books are!

Alexandra: Mr Rochester is a D*CK. A HUGE D*CK

Copil: Mr. Rochester is a D*ck is my new AC/DC cover band!

Aaaaaand, on that note, we thought it best to call it a night!

So teens, what do you wish adults remembered about being your age? Anyone have a most-loathed book (or AC/DC cover band name) to share or a topic you'd like to see our Teen Spies discuss next month? We want to hear from you!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Join The Mission: Link Round-Up and New Assignment

This month we launched a new feature: Join The Mission, a chance for you to become an operative and help us all figure out how to write more authentic YA.

For January's assignment, we asked you to interview a teen and then report back to us. Five of you answered the call:
Sarah Belliston interviewed an American teen living in Dubai.
Tania Walsh interviewed her niece about crushes, bullying, and embarrassing mishaps.

The ladies at We Heart YA interviewed teen Mara about what she reads and what's overdone in YA.

Becky interviewed 14 year old Maddy about her life and her favorite books.

PK Hrezo interviewed teen writer/blogger McKenzie about everything reading.
We're so happy we had so many participants, and we hope you enjoyed it! I know you're all going to enjoy reading these interviews, because there are some great insights into a bunch of different teen lives, so check them out and leave some love! And if you participated in Join The Mission but didn't have a chance to tell us about it, leave your link in the comments!

Okay, so, ready for more?

YA Confidential aims to help writers create more authentic young adult literature by giving them insight into today's teens. Each month, they issue a mission to their readers. February's mission, which I have chosen to accept, is to:


We know what the teens say, but now we want to hear from the gate-keepers! What books fly off their shelves? How do they gauge what is and isn't appropriate for their students? What have they observed from their teens that the teens themselves would never tell us?

To participate, just interview a teacher/librarian sometime in the month of February, post it along with the image and text to help spread the word, and then report back! We'll post a link round-up at the end of the month so everyone can check out your interview.

Thanks SO much to January's participants. We hope to have even more of you in February! Now get reading and interviewing!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Comment of the Week and Wintergirls Giveaway Winner!

Each Thursday we ask you a question, and on Saturday we pick the author of our favorite answer to win a prize from THE VAULT as a thank you for participating.

This week's winner, who told us which release she's most excited about is:


I'm going to have to say INSURGENT by Veronica Roth. DIVERGENT is the only book that I have read more than once in the same year (even crazier, in less than two months). It was Just. That. Good. It also single-handedly prompted to me to get up off my arse and try writing my own book. Six months later, I have 300+ pages written to that end. Talk about a powerful first book :-)! If INSURGENT is anywhere near as gripping and influential, then I need to start preparing. Who knows what kind of new goal/passion/totally bonkers idea will spring from this one. Please don't be weapons training, please don't be weapons training...

What an AWESOME answer! We're all very excited for INSURGENT too, and how incredible that it inspired you to write your own novel!

Jaime, shoot us an e-mail and let us know what Vault prize you want! Congratulations! And thanks to everyone who commented. Come back on Thursday for another question!

ALSO a super gihugic THANK YOU to those of you who commented on the Wintergirls posts Tuesday and Wednesday. The lucky random commenter who wins a hard cover copy of Wintergirls is


Natalie, shoot us an email with your address so you can start reading ASAP! Thanks again to everyone for the kind and heartfelt comments!

Friday, January 27, 2012


Hi, everyone! Welcome to another edition of Ask-a-Dude!

Remember, you can ask your own questions using the entry form on the right!

Here's today's question:

Q: What's behind most guys' constant need to wrestle with and punch their buddies?

A:  A rich fantasy life.

Finally! A car specifically designed for white people!
When I was in high school I got my driver's license on the eighteenth try (something about my habit of clipping unwary bus patrons). I drove a white Ford Fairmont station wagon my dad stole from a hobo. No he didn't, but it looked and smelled like he did. By God, that was one sweet hooptie! It had four on the dash, dual-clutch sport suspension, freeze-hardened coil-overs and Henderson bust clamps. Yeah, I just made that shit up. Seriously, I know less about cars than I do about dryer lint.

When I drove that car I had three simple rules:

1. Never wear a seat belt
2. Always park with the nose facing out
3. Keep a crowbar within easy reach of the driver

I should NOT have flipped this guy off
Why? Duh. I didn't wear a seatbelt because I wanted to make sure I could escape quickly in the event of a fire. I parked with the nose facing out because I never knew when I'd need to make a fast getaway. And the crowbar was there because, you know, this guy -------->

Where on earth did I get the idea that my short roundtrip to and from my buddy's house for Dungeons & Dragons could be so dangerous?

From the male fantasy continuum. Like every guy who doesn't otherwise have a life, I believe that at any moment I could be recruited by an international spy ring. The fantasy goes like this. I'm standing in line at the grocery store, loading up on Marshmallow Fluff and tequila, when a beautiful woman in a trench coat walks up to me and says in tearful, broken English that the two brutes nearby aren't really interested in the “Five-for-Five” avocado sale. They are, in fact, there to kill her and steal the nuclear codes she came to possess while working at the Slobovian embassy. She pushes the codes into my hand and runs out the door where she dies in a hail of bullets. The two killers now turn their attention to me.

And this is what I've been training for. It is on upon Donkey Kong!

I slide over the hood of my ride, jump into the driver's seat and gun the motor. Because I had the foresight to park facing out, I gain a few precious seconds and escape my pursuers. But I'm no match for their souped up Escalade and they clip my car at the gas tank, causing my wagon to flip over and burst into flames. Thank GOD I'm not wearing my seat belt! I quickly emerge from the car into a hand-to-hand fight with two goons who fall to the business end of my crowbar.

Here's the picture in my mind's eye.

When Road Rage met 'Roid Rage: A Love Story
Nuclear Armageddon averted. You're welcome, world.

Pure fantasy, of course. But one that underpins such manly activities as throat-striking, leg-tripping and head-slapping. In guy-think, when I throw an apple at my bro's nuts, I'm simply preparing him for the James Bond torture scene in Casino Royale. When he turns a fun game of lawn darts into a bloody free-for-all, he's just hardening my psyche for my imminent kidnapping by Billy, the puppet from Saw.

In our fantasies, we are all suave secret agents who can field strip an M-16 while making sweet, sweet love to you. And what could be sexier?

I mean, besides everything?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Drumroll PLEASE...

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.

To enter, follow YA Confidential and please make sure that your email address is linked to your comment in some way! (So we can get in touch with you :)

Today's question:
What upcoming release are you most excited about?
Sara: Oh man. Mine's a little bit of a cheat. I *would* say Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta because I've been salivating over that book for AGES. Except I snagged an ARC of it at ALA and have already devoured it. Which makes my answer, instead, the next book in the series: Quintana of Charyn. Which really stinks considering Froi isn't even officially released yet. I feel pretty confident saying that I'd most likely sell my soul for a copy of Quintana. And probably (okay, definitely) your soul as well. No offense. 

Alison: There are three (yes, three - get over it) novels I can't wait to glue my nose to. Number one on the I wish it were May already anticpitated reads: Insurgent by Veronica Roth. I know everyone else will probably put this at the top of their list too. And they should. Divergent was ground-breaking, exceptionally written, and just fifty levels of awesome. I also can't wait until August for the final Maximum Ride novel Nevermore. Yes, I know - SHUT UP about James Patterson already. But there's no denying him the king of page turners and this YA series was my first YA love. Finally, I'm still going through House of Night withdrawls and probably will be until October when I an purchase Hidden. And as I'm typing my response, several others popped into my mind, but I'll leave it at three. Maybe. Playing Parker, A Midsummer's Nightmare, Tilt...

Copil: I'm excited about Guy Langman, Crime Scene Procrastinator by Josh Berk. Supposedly Berk really brings the funny in this title about a high school junior who stumbles on a murder scene. I've totally had this happen to me, like, a bajillion times, so I'm excited to see if he gets it right.

Karen: Under the Light by Laura Whitcomb. (The sequel to A Certain Slant of Light.) I have waited FOREVER and I want it out RIGHT NOW.

Cristin: Although I didn't know it, clearly the book I'm most excited for is The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict, as I made such ridiculous excited noises when I saw the ARC at ALA that the woman working the booth straight-up laughed at me.

Alexandra: A Confusion of PrincesBecause I have immense amounts of fangirl love for Garth Nix, and he could probably vomit on a page and I'd think it was brilliant.

Cambria: So many good books coming out this year, but I'd say it's a tie between This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers and Insurgent by Veronica Roth.

Your turn!!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Wintergirls Delivers the Skinny on Eating Disorders (with Giveaway!)

** This post contains discussion of eating disorders that may be triggering for some readers. **

 Yesterday, Laura enthralled us with a powerful review of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Wintergirls (seriously amazing—if you missed it, check it out here!) and since it’s Undercover Wednesday, I’m following up with an insider’s close up at something that plagues up to 24 million people of all ages and genders—mostly female. Mostly female teens.

Oh, and yes I did say 24 million.

Some other not-so-fun eating disorder stats?
(mostly courtesy of ANAD—the National Association Of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, Inc. as well as other various eating disorder websites)

Anorexia is the third most common chronic illness among adolescents

86% report onset of eating disorder by age 20; 43% report onset between ages of 16 and 20.6

Over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives

Only 1 in 10 men and women with eating disorders receive treatment. Only 35% of people that receive treatment for eating disorders get treatment at a specialized facility for eating disorders

81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat

42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner

50% of girls between the ages of 11 and 13 see themselves as overweight.

One in 200 American women suffers from anorexia.

Two to three in 100 American women suffers from bulimia

There are over 85 books for teens involving eating disorders. Here are just a few:

Perfect by Ellen Hopkins

Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

Skinny by Ibi Kaslik

Second Star to the Right by Deborah Hautzig

Faded Denim: Color Me Trapped by Melody Carlson

Signs and symptoms of someone with anorexia

skipping meals, pushing food around on plate, cutting out certain foods, chewing and spitting

Obsessive with weight

Wearing loose or baggy clothing most of the time

Social isolation

Low self-esteem, self-hatred

Obsessive exercise

Secretive eating

thinning hair, low body temperature (freezing all the time), ammenorhea, lanugo (fine white hair the body grows to keep it warm)

Some just downright sick and ugly facts

There are websites promoting (yes—I said promoting) anorexia nervosa as a lifestyle. Some Pro Ana sites even have a list of Thin Commandments including: You can never be too thin and Thou shalt not eat without feeling guilty.

Websites like Thinspiration post pictures and tips for losing weight. Here’s one of the tips I uncovered:

If you are really craving something specific and are on the verge of a binge, go into the kitchen, prepare it, and then eat it-but do not swallow! Chew it slowly, enjoy it, and then spit it out. Immediately after that rinse your mouth with water at least three times before swallowing a sip so you do not accidentally ingest any calories.

Pretty gruesome, huh?

So, with all those appalling statistics, horrifying symptoms, and sick supporters, WHY do so many women girls continue to spiral into the “all-consuming vortex of anorexia?"

If you really want to go Undercover into the WHY, read Wintergirls.

Laura gushed about the prose, but also the haunting reality. Every page of Wintergirls reveals Lia’s brokenness, her misery. Her despair. It’s an elaborative, gripping, poignant struggle of an eighteen year old on a seemingly never ending spiral into the hell of an eating disorder that not only rips apart her life, but the lives of those around her as well.

To quote Laura: “It was obvious from the very first page that the author had done her research, but wasn’t going to bombard us with unnecessary information.” True that. And the research that Anderson conducted to make everything so real? I know it’s real. I know that everything you read in Wintergirls is true, sound, and totally authentic. Because the therapist that read through her work?

She was mine.

I was the space between my thighs, a dead girl walking on a college campus. I was five-foot six, eighty five pounds and in an eating disorder clinic. I knew I was thin. I thought I was fat.

When I read Wintergirls the first time last May, I couldn’t talk about it, I couldn’t discuss it. And I definitely couldn’t review it. The self-destruction, the pain. The desperation. That character that you read about in books that most reminds you of yourself. For me, that was Lia.

And this post is not about Alison coming out of the Eating Disorder closet, unleashing a skeleton (literally) I locked up for a long time. But I do want you to know that what you read about in Wintergirls is what people suffering from anorexia endure. And not just the physical symptoms. It’s not just about a warped desire to be thin. It’s not just about numbers on a scale. It’s not just about the arrhythmia that keeps you from sleeping and praying you’re not dying or the desperate need to walk for two three four hours after a meal.

It IS about what it’s REALLY like to be a teenage girl with anorexia. And WHY. Something you’re not always going to find in your google searches. But you will find it in Wintergirls. And as I dig deeper into Anderson's novel, I might just give you a little bit of the HOWs and WHYs in this post. (direct quotes from Wintergirls will be in italics)

*breathes deep*

Here goes.

Everything’s Counted for

“Why don’t you have one of the muffins? I bought oranges yesterday, or you could have toast or frozen waffles.” Stepmother Jennifer asks.

Because I can’t let myself want them because I don’t need a muffin (410), I don’t want an orange (75) or toast (87), and waffles (180) make me gag.

One large rice cake = 35. Top it with one teaspoon of spicy mustard and you add 5. Two teaspoons = 10. Rice cakes with hot sauce are better. You eat and are punished in the same bite.

About the same time I decided upon a career as a math teacher, my daily math involved adding calories. Food was never about taste. If it was too good, too many calories, I didn’t deserve to eat it. Many pounds of self-loathing. A ton of guilt.

The daily mantra


Imagine middle school and a bully hurling that catastrophic insult at you every day. Now imagine that bully is you. And you’re saying it to yourself. But instead of maybe five times five days a week, it’s in your head—all the time. It’s a mantra that ran through my head every day, many minutes of that day. Anytime I felt a pinch of fat, scored less than perfect on a test, walked into a wall. Didn’t get that part I wanted in a play. I’d take it out on myself. Punishment was malnourishment. This is Lia. This is most people with eating disorders. It takes a long time and a lot of therapy and support to learn to love yourself again.

Self-imposed perfectionism/Living up to spoken unspoken expectations

I’m not eighteen, I’m twelve, locked into toe shoes, dancing the pas de Mom again, with her standing in the wings, telling me what I’m doing wrong.

Way too Thin FAT

Last time I was locked up, the hospital shrink had me draw a life-sized outline of my body. I chose a fat crayon the color of elephant skin or a rainy sidewalk…I wanted to draw my thighs, each the size of a couch, on his carpet, The rolls on my butt and my gut would rumble over the floor and splash up against the walls; my boobs, beach balls; my arms, tubes of cookie dough oozing at the seams.

Warped self-perception. I went through this same activity. Followed up with my counselors outlining my body in chalk, hanging the two pictures next to each other. For me—the visual was my saving grace. Others aren’t so lucky.

The Control. The POWER.

(someone offering Lia pizza) “Want some?”
One bite, please, and then another and another, crust and cheese sausage sauce another and another empty is strong and invincible. “I already ate.”

(099.00! 099.00! 099.00! Tomorrow will be 098.00!)

Just because I dish it out, doesn’t mean I have to swallow it. I am strong enough to do this the potatoes smell so good stay strong, empty empty the potatoes smell strong/empty/strong/breathe/pretend/hold on.

I’m hungry I need to eat.
I hate eating.
I need to eat.
I hate eating.
I need to eat.
I love not-eating.

Food. Not eating. It’s the one thing in Lia’s life she can control.

Low Body Temperature

She covers me with all of the blankets she has (five) and the jackets from the lost-and-found box, because I am freezing. I drift into the armpits of strangers, tasting their manic salt, and sleep to forget everything.

The Competition

“I bet I’ll be skinnier than you.”
“No, don’t make it a bet. Let’s be skinniest together.”
“Okay, but I’ll be skinnier.”

Like Lia, there was a Cassie in my life. We weren’t best friends, but there was an unspoken pact anytime one of our apparitions appeared in the other’s path—I will be the skinniest girl on campus

The Attention/Seeking Invisibility

People with anorexia are a walking oxymoron. They’re screaming for attention, yet want everyone to leave them alone. And they’re experts in the art of cheating and manipulation. Lying to others comes almost as easy as lying to oneself.

I turn on the tap, lean over the sink, and guzzle until my belly is a big water balloon.

I change into my yellow robe in my bedroom and make sure the quarters I sewed into the pockets aren’t making them droop.

Attention feeds us. Control empowers us. Pounds off the scale satisfy any hunger pangs. And that cheesecake drizzled with chocolate that looks so good I want fifty pieces I don't need it. We don't deserve that anyway.

That's the skinny girl in the mirror talking.

The Danger in Books About Eating Disorders

I don’t want to write this post
I feel compelled to write this post
I can’t write this post
I need to write this post

I exited an eating disorder clinic over twenty years ago, and have had four relapses since. And every relapse was triggered by a movie about eating disorders, a student with an eating disorder, a book about them.

Posts like this, books like Wintergirls? They scare me. Not so much anymore for my own relapse, but for someone else's. Potential eating disorder victims thrive on competing with other stories, they starve for the attention it brings. The disorder can be alluring - for those striving to be model thin. For those in need of attention. For those in need of control.

BUT Wintergirls is different. It's more about Lia’s despair and her misery is CLEAR. It’s not preachy and yet it definitely in no way ever glorifies the eating disorder. It's a book I would recommend to anyone, especially parents, teachers, friends - ANYONE close to watching someone slowly kill themselves to this disease. Unfortunately, more often than not, people with eating disorders CANNOT be helped, forced, or coerced out of their situation. And many times, we have to hit rock bottom before we can climb out of our despair.

I don't know that the story will provide comfort, but it will definitley put you in the anorexic's head. And maybe give a little


IMHO, pain and hope are the heart of truly awesome YA. And there is definitely hope for people battling an eating disorder. Like me. I wouldn't say I'm in the 50% that claims they're cured, I will always be a recovering anorexic, but I've had two healthy pregnancies, two healthy children. And I can go many years months without dropping the F (fat) bomb.

And while Anderson depicts Lia's despair, dare I say, beautifully, she also delivers hope. And not cheesy, after-school special hope. Realistic hope.

So, if you're looking for a real issue book depicted with absolute authenticity, I hope I've convinced you to trust my judgment on this one. Read Wintergirls.

Do you know anyone with an eating disorder? Did this post resonate with you? Have you read Wintergirls? If not, want to win a hard cover copy? Leave a comment on today’s post or yesterday's post (or both for TWO entries!) and I’ll draw one random commenter to win! Winner will be announced Saturday with our comment of the week!

Teen Review: WINTERGIRLS with Giveaway!

Today, one of our teen spies, Laura (aka Literate Looney), is back with an amazing review of Laurie Halse Anderson's Wintergirls.

“Dead girl walking,” the boys say in the halls.
“Tell us your secret,” the girls whisper, one toilet to another.
I am that girl.
I am the space between my thighs, daylight shining through.
I am the bones they want, wired on a porcelain frame.

Lia and Cassie were best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies. But now Cassie is dead. Lia's mother is busy saving other people's lives. Her father is away on business. Her step-mother is clueless. And the voice inside Lia's head keeps telling her to remain in control, stay strong, lose more, weigh less. If she keeps on going this way—thin, thinner, thinnest—maybe she'll disappear altogether.

In her most emotionally wrenching, lyrically written book since the National Book Award finalist Speak, best-selling author Laurie Halse Anderson explores one girl's chilling descent into the all-consuming vortex of anorexia.

Laura's thoughts: How can you talk about something as beautiful as Wintergirls? How can I even begin to use words as artfully crafted as Laurie Halse Anderson’s, write something comparable to her poetic sentences of heartbreak and triumph, because it’s the only justifiable way to write a review for this book? I can’t, but I can at least talk about how much this book means to me and why.

Difficult topics like bulimia, anorexia, and eating disorders have always interested me, so it’s no surprise that I bought straight away a book that immediately dealt with these things. What is a surprise, however, is how the issues were approached. It was not in a boring, straight-from-the-textbook fashion, as I expected, and it was obvious from the very first page that the author had done her research, but wasn’t going to bombard us with unnecessary information.

The moment I read about Cassie and Lia’s deathly arrangement, I was sucked in. I was gripped so fiercely by the story that I lost hours of sleep in order to finish it. While I haven’t directly experienced Lia’s struggles, I could identify with her at once. Her character was real, in the gritty kind of way you don’t often see in books. I felt her every moment of pain and seclusion. I fought with her ghosts, too.

Really, it’s all because Anderson has a gift with words, and not just your average, run-of-the-mill "she can write!" kind of gift. She has the kind of gift that can fill you with butterflies and slap you across the face, break your heart and wipe your tears all in a single sentence, a chain reaction made my simple words that she individually packs with a heartfelt punch.

I wish there was some big, witty conclusion I could add that would cunningly sum up this book. But Wintergirls is beyond my critique. It is beyond the simple ranking of a novel, it is just that stunning, with the first to final haunting words still turning over in my mind. It is the first book in a long time that has really reached me, that has made feel, and that’s worth something.

Thanks, Laura! (Isn't she amazing?!) A gorgeous review for a gorgeously written novel. Tune in tomorrow when I go undercover into the devastating reality of teens and eating disorders.

Have YOU read Wintergirls? Want to win a hard cover copy? Leave a comment on today’s post or tomorrow’s follow up post (or both for TWO entries!) and I’ll draw one random commenter to win! Winner will be announced Saturday with our comment of the week!

Monday, January 23, 2012


It's Monday.

Last night, my Ravens lost by 3 points.
Double bleh.

I was fighting a bad cold all weekend.
Triple bleh.

But worst thing? Several of our operatives are in Dallas, Texas, having fun at ALA, while the rest of us are sitting at home wishing we were there. BLEHHHHHH!

Here's the thing about ALA. You get TONS of free books. AWESOME books. Books that many people would give an appendage or two to have in their possession. Especially the ARCs. Also, you get to hang out with amazing writerly peeps.

But I'm not there. I'm at home with a really bad case of ALA envy. I torture myself by reading tweets like these:
Standing in a super long line for Bitter Blue. *fingers crossed*

So fun! Just got a random limo ride to dinner with , , and :)

Some tweets are even accompanied by a photo which makes it even more painful because I can SEE how much fun my fellow operatives are having...

Met at ALA -- even more awesome in person! And she's wearing a sticker!
Painful, isn't it?
They all look so happy. And look behind them. Do you KNOW how many incredible books and authors must be lurking in the background. Makes me wanna pull out a few pints of Ben & Jerry's and cry myself into a sugar coma.

No, but seriously, I shouldn't be SO upset. Our operatives are so sweet and thoughtful. I know someone will send me a book or two. (As if that in any way makes up for me not being there in person to hang out and have fun and meet authors and bum-rush tables for most wanted ARCs and drink delicious Blood Marys at the hotel bar and ride in a limo and...oh, sorry.) Back to my point.

Our operatives are so thoughtful and generous. I KNOW they are also acquiring some amazing books for our Vault. Maybe even a signed book or two. That means YOU readers will have a chance to win those awesome reads. And for that, we should all be grateful.

Have any of you ever been to ALA?
Any ARCS or books that you know are at ALA and you wish you had?

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Comment of the Week

Each Thursday we ask you a question, and on Saturday we pick the author of our favorite answer to win a prize from THE VAULT as a thank you for participating. 

This week's winner is:

Jessica Silverstein!!

When asked about her desert island book, she answered:

Hmm.  By sheer number of re-reads?  Probably Little Women.  Or if I was strictly limited to one title, and I wanted a book whose prose and richness is most rewarding over and over?  Probably my annotated Pride and Prejudice.  Obviously my Riverside Shakespeare would be good as I slowly went crazy and started acting out all the roles myself, playing against monkeys and coconut trees.  And The Hunger Games combines practical survival tactics with writing so exciting that it's the only book I've ever been able to finish and immediately start again.  But then there's the completely magical world of The Scorpio Races, and the gut-wrenching relationships of The Time Traveler's Wife and His Dark Materials trilogy.  But the book that I might actually choose?  As tough as this is, I would take Anne of Green Gables.  A Little Princess was a close second--and both for the same reason.  In both books, the precocious protagonists use their imaginations to improve upon difficult situations and keep their spirits up.  I'd choose Anne over Sara by a narrow margin because she's a little spunkier, and you need spunk on a desert island.  I mean, I imagine you do.  But I wouldn't want to find out!

Fabulous answer!! I mean, I was drawn to it because you couldn't seem to stop yourself from rambling about ALL THE BOOKS you'd want to bring. Which I did in my own answer :) But we loved your line of thinking!

Jessica, shoot us an e-mail and let us know what Vault prize you want! Congratulations! And thanks to everyone who commented. Come back on Thursday for another question!

Friday, January 20, 2012

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. AND I have bribed a few former students into doing my dirty lurking. And I have some classes willing to answer some questions.

And since things are exam heavy in my neck of the teen-dom, I’m devoting this month to cramming studying. I asked about seventy students* how they study, why they don’t study. And discovered some very interesting rituals and superstitions as well.

Here’s what I learned…

Do they study for exams (finals and in general)?

The results were split about 60-40, with more students opting not to study. And when exams count 25% of their final semester average, I wondered WHY NOT?

I do better if I don’t study. (coming from one of my A students)

I jinx myself.

I’m usually fully prepared.

I’m too tired from work.

Because if I didn’t get it the first time, I won’t get it now.

I’m a good test taker, Studying stresses me out.

Because if I already know it, there’s no reason to study.

Because if I do study, I freak myself out and then I don’t remember the answer anyway.

I have found that if I study, I do worse than if I don’t study.

If I study, it wigs me out. Then I get all fidgety and mess up.

Those that do study? Do they spread the studying out over time? Or cram the night before?

I cram the night before—it’s just better for me to remember if I study all at once.

I spread my studying out over time so I won’t get frustrated or worried.

I study the night before—I retain more info.

It depends on the class.

I spread my studying into different categories and different days, like chapters, topics, etc.

I cram, because I just don’t feel like thinking about school.

I study one thing at a time to understand it better and so it’s not just one big blur.

I cram—otherwise I won’t remember anything.

Other study habits?

About half of my students preferred absolute silence. Others need music to get in the study groove.

Certain songs promote thinking.

I listen to music because when I remember lyrics I can remember what I studied, like a memory.

Most students prefer to study alone (I get distracted too easily with friends), and most need a quiet place to study, like their bedroom, a desk. The library.

I also asked them if their teachers gave them a review to study. And was it helpful? An overwhelming majority said YES.

What do my teens eat before their exams?

Many cited a healthy breakfast while several others can’t eat anything (sometimes I’m nervous if I’ve eaten a heavy meal. I will feel queasy.)

Here are some other pre-exam staples: fruit, eggs, cereal, smarties, peanut butter toast, bacon-egg-cheese biscuit, doughnuts, whatever the cafeteria has, oatmeal, OJ, fast food, PB&J sandwich, apple juice (because it calms my nerves!)

And finally, after twenty years of teaching, I’ve observed students enter test day with all sorts of “good luck charms.” One of my colleagues used to “bless the pencils” in an elaborate ceremony before every test.

So, do today’s teens have any rituals, superstitions, or good luck charms too?

I eat mints like crazy.

Lucky underwear.

My necklaces my dad gave me.

I listen to certain music.

Fave pen or pencil.


I hug my best friend.

I will wear my chain necklace and my rings (all with sentimental value)

I eat a pack of Smarties.

Wish at 11:11.

A good night’s sleep.

So, sound like you back in the day? Did you have any peculiar study habits? Any good luck charms? Teen readers—tell us about your study rituals. And adult readers—what was exam week like for you?

PS—next month’s topic is Valentine’s Day, but I’m always open to suggestions for topics for this monthly post (no, really. I’m begging you—feed me a topic!) Anything you want to hear about from my teens? Let me know!

Also, want to join our mission? Click here for details!

*Students surveyed are what most would consider “average” students. One might get slightly different responses from say, an honors group. Or maybe not.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Deserted Island Books!!

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.

To enter, follow YA Confidential and please make sure that your email address is linked to your comment in some way! (So we can get in touch with you :)

Today's question:

What's your desert island book--the one you could read over and over again and never get sick of? 
Cambria: Mine's a twofer because I NEVER pack light, even for a deserted island. My adult book choice would be Outlander by Diana Gabaldon -- a sweeping, historical time travel epic love story? Um, yes please and don't forget to bring me my fruity umbrella drink with that! And my YA book choice would be Hunger Games because, well, it's the freaking Hunger Games and I don't think I could ever get sick of that book. EVER.

Copil: You mean besides a first edition hardback of Glint McHardscrabble's How to Survive on a Desert Island?! Ok, then I guess my second choice would be Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. It includes all the fun and discovery of 1, 2 and 3 along with the scope and darkness of 5, 6 and 7. I think I could reread that for as long as it took them to find me and Wilson. WIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIILLLLLLLLLSOOOOOOOOOOOOOOON!

Karen: Well, obviously the ideal situation is for me and Cambria to be stranded on the same island, because I would choose Outlander too. I could just borrow her book. My selection (which Cambria could borrow from me if she wanted) would be the complete collection of Lewis Carroll stories. I'd get Alice In Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass, and more. I'd also like to request fruity umbrella drinks.

Sara: Dude, I need to get stuck with Karen. Because Lewis Carroll is RIGHT UP THERE for me, too. Can I come with you and Cambria? Or maybe we can ALL go get stranded together. (How much fun would that be? SERIOUSLY.) But if Karen's already got Lewis Carroll covered, I'd go for Ender's Game. And I'd love it if the entire series came in one ginormous book. (Particularly all of the Ender novels--Childern of the Mind is my fave. I reread the series at least every two years.) That and the entire Narnia series. Which I know for a fact comes in one book, because I own it :)

Alison: Easy. I don’t typically reread books, especially since my TBR pile matches the height of my two-story. Granted when I do reread a book, I discover nuances and mystery clues I might not have seen first read, but most books fall into one of two categories: meh books that I don’t care to read again or books I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE that linger with me long after I turned the last page. It’s with the latter I’m almost afraid of a reread. Like that fresh, magical newness won’t be so magical the second time around.
There are only a few books I’ve extended a long-term relationship to: The Great Gatsby’s a perennial read, my inner sex romance whore couldn’t ignore second third helpings of The Duff and Shut Out (Kody Keplinger), and I plan to reread the Hunger Games series(which is the best series EVER) in anticipation of the movie.
But if I had to choose ONE? Maximum Ride: Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports. I’ve read it a few six times. Actually, I’ve read most of the books in the series more than once and have the first four on audio (I NEVER do audio books), but the third one? The romantic tension between Max and Fang? The perpetual hilarity provided by blind Iggy and the appropriately named Gazzy? The creepy yet adorable mind-reading Angel? The typical James Patterson page-turning adventure? Total the talking terrier aka Sex and the City’s Stanford reincarnated?
Yeah. That’s my desert island read. My inner fourteen year old needs an occasional daily dose of snarktastic Max.

Alexandra: Sabriel by Garth Nix. It's the book that introduced me to the brilliant blend of horror and fantasy as a teen, and every time I've read it since I've found new things to marvel at, new ways in which Garth Nix is an absolute genius. I've never read a book with a better ambiance of darkness, a stronger backstory, or a more compelling setting. It has an engaging main character in Sabriel, the most unique interpretation of the river Styx I've ever read, a heart-melting romance, and a talking cat. What more could you want? (If you're not a cat fan, the next book, Lirael, has a talking dog. So the series literally has everything.)

Cristin: This is kind of cheating, but I pick Shakespeare's Complete Works. It's one of the only books where you will still be discovering new things during the ten millionth read, plus I could use Timon of Athens as kindling for fires.
Design by Small Bird Studios | All Rights Reserved