Monday, March 31, 2014

From the Vault

Every Monday we post a reading/writing-related question for our followers, and at the end of the month, one lucky commenter is selected to choose a title from our Vault. Whatever we have available: ARCs, signed books, awesome new releases... OR the monthly winner may select any one book to be ordered for him/her from the Book Depository

(To enter, follow YA Confidential and make sure your email address is linked to your comment in some way. We'll need to get in touch with you if you win.)

Today's Question --> We’re already ¼ through 2014! What’s the best book you’ve read so far this year?

Tracey - THESE BROKEN STARS by Meagan Spooner and Amie Kaufman is one of the first books I read in 2014 and so far it’s still my favorite. I can imagine it’ll still be in the top five at the end of the year, too. 

Matthew - I would say GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE, but I technically read that for the fist time a few years ago, so I'll say ELEANOR & PARK by Rainbow Rowell.

Leigh - MINE! Hahahaha -- kidding. I need a good book rec -- comments section is fine! I've read several books this year, but they've all just swam by in my head and nothing's really stood out. Halp! 

Sarah - Man, I've read a lot of great books so far this year. But I will have to say that Anne Ursu's THE REAL BOY is topping my list. Yes it's MG, but man, if I ever write a MG fantasy, I want it to be like that. But for YA, I think so far it's a tie between Andrew Smith's GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE and A.S. King's REALITY BOY.

Jaime - So tough! I’ve read some pretty fantastic books so far this year. It’s going to have to be a four-way tie between INTO THE STILL BLUE by Veronica Rossi , CROWN OF EMBERS + THE BITTER KINGDOM by Rae Carson , and CRESS by Marissa Meyer)

Alison - WINGER by Andrew Smith. I’m always down for an awesome boy book and this one was AMAZING.

Katy – I’m with Trace – THESE BROKEN STARS totally blew my mind. Also, I just finished Morgan Matson’s AMY & ROGER’S EPIC DETOUR and absolutely loved it. Can’t believe it took me so long to pick up. Total Katy Book. :-) 

Your turn! What’s the best book you’ve read so far this year?

Friday, March 28, 2014


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

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

Today's question is:

Q: Guys. Explain.

A: Outstanding question.

Guys think they're simple creatures, and would have you believe they have the same needs as adults that they did as babies (boobs and a clean diaper). It's a fallacy, of course, guys are faaaar more complicated than they pretend to be. 

(I should clarify I'm mostly talking about heterosexual males. Simple Male Syndrome does not appear to be a delusion shared by gay men. None of my gay friends pretend to be anything other than the fabulously complicated creatures they were born as.)

It takes a lot of energy to keep up this fa├žade of simplicity. Most guys manage it okay, but there is a penalty. It's like those Klingon warbirds with the nifty cloak that you have to disengage if you want to fire weapons. You can't run two competing systems simultaneously. That's why, when some dude is pretending to be all chill while talking out his ass on a topic YOU know he's clueless about, and you call him on it, you can cause a system overload. Men, just like Klingon ships, cannot fight and hide at the same time.

The result is a break with reality, a glitch in the matrix that appears suddenly with no explanation, and if you ask for one, guys will pretend whatever just happened was what they intended all along. The simplest example is the "trip run." That's where a guy will be walking down the street, trip on his own shoelaces, and then break into a jog, like he suddenly checked his pedometer and needed to burn a few extra calories.

At the other extreme is war. Someone will be all, there are no weapons of mass destruction there, and guys will be all, yeah there are, and you'll be like, nuh-uh, and then suddenly guys are all, booyah, I just broke your country.

Never underestimate the destructive power of a male who's been challenged to account for himself. 

Here's a more recent example.

Yes, this is a real game. No, it makes no sense. Yes, there are guys lined up to buy it. Why does it exist? Because someone caused cognitive dissonance in a male game developer somewhere.

I imagine it went down like this: the creator of this game was relaxing at home when his girlfriend innocently asked if he wouldn't mind refilling the ice cube tray after using it.

"What did you just say to me?!"

Boom. Goat Simulator.

See, asking guys to be responsible is like squeezing a balloon. No matter how gently you squeeze, the balloon is going to bubble up somewhere else. Goat Simulator is that bubble. Also, masking-tape faces.

Sticky tape selfies, Goat Simulator, fantasy football, they're all examples of a break in the male psyche brought on by a challenge to the meh-gendered, guys who pretend they can take on the world with a shrug and a beer. 

The truth is, roiling within the skull of every man, is a morass of emotional turmoil that threatens to inflict on the world Even-Toed Ungulate Expansion Packs for Goat Simulator, all because someone mentioned that, perhaps, just maybe, it was sorta, kinda, douchey to take his shoes off and clean between his toes. At the dinner table. In a fancy restaurant. With your parents.

Why do men unravel so easily?

In a word: insecurity.

No matter how put together the guy seems, trust me when I tell you there are insecurities lurking beneath the surface you cannot possibly begin to understand.

No, seriously, give me a random topic. A person, place, or thing, just shout it out.


Too easy. Every guy thinks he knows more about the game than the average player. He also thinks he could make the team if he'd just do a few extra crunches in the morning, but then he'd be all sweaty, and he just showered for school, plus, he doesn't have to PROVE ANYTHING TO ANYONE! Sports offer so many structural failure points for a guy, it's like building a bridge out of Swiss cheese. The slightest challenge to his surety that no one knows or could play the game better, and suddenly you're walking home alone and not entirely sure why.

Gimme another one. Make it obscure.

Nail files.

Fine. Every guy pretends not to care about his look, but they all do. Most guys just clip their fingernails once they're long enough to simply snick off the black end with all the crud under it. Insta-clean nails, and no need for all that time-consuming grooming. But from time to time, he'll get a torn bit that could really do with a nail file. Problem is, the only one he has is the tiny one that came attached to the clippers, and that one's been rusted shut for years. His girlfriend has one, but how to get it without asking? If he goes into her purse gem thief-style, he might be seen, and mocked mercilessly until the end of time. If he asks for one, he will be mocked mercilessly until the end of time. If he doesn't ask, he'll snag his nail on something, yelp in excruciating pain, and will be mocked mercilessly until the end of time.

This calculus rises in an instant. With no clear way to retain his self-esteem, the insecure male's brain will explode, showering the surrounding area with gray matter, and leaving some nonsensical new product in its wake. Like toilet paper holders that don't require you to remove the impossibly complicated spring-loaded tube.

This toilet paper holder:

Let's see, sports, nail files. . .Crimea?

"What if I'm not as manly as Vladimir Putin?"

You can use this knowledge to your advantage, of course. It comes in particularly handy in dating scenarios. You have a huge crush on the hottest guy in class, but you're too scared to ask him out? Don't look at him, look past him, to all the conflicting insecurities threatening to turn him into a blubbering mass of ugly-cry tears, all because you pointed out that he doesn't look like the American Apparel model in his pea coat, he looks like the "before" picture in a police training manual about park flashers. You may not see his insecurities, but they're there, and, likely, others have seen them rear their ugly, Medusa-like heads. Just remember, no matter how good-looking he is, someone, somewhere is tired of his sh!t! If you can roll with all that, then go get some.

The other place this knowledge can be useful is if you're trying to understand your male character. You want him to act as irrationally and batshit crazy as every guy you've ever met. But you also want him to be real, not some cardboard cutout of an alpha-male stereotype.

Simple. Give him something to care about.

It can be his looks, his girlfriend, his car, his lack of car, his grades, his future, his past, or his present. Whatever it is, now realize that his one function in life, the only calling card he needs to get into the men's VIP bathroom, is giving the appearance that the thing that matters to him most, doesn't matter at all.

Now put him in a room with someone who knows the truth.

Insecurity. It's what's for breakfast.

Copil has stopped going to public urinals. Discover his many and varied insecurities on Twitter (@Copil).

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Start a New Series


A month ago I reread a book I loved in preparation for the second book in the series, and it struck me how great an example the book was for so many aspects of writing: setting, characters, language, pacing, plot, romance… And, well, the sequel didn’t disappoint.

So here are the top five reasons you should pick up A.C. Gaughen’s Scarlet and Lady Thief. (When you’re done reading those, you’ll have your own reasons for anxiously awaiting the third book in the series.)

1. The Premise. Talk about a great idea: Will Scarlet, one of Robin Hood’s Merry Men, is actually a girl in disguise.

2. The writing. If you’ve ever read a book where dialect pulls you out of the story and feels more clunky than natural, you know why I approach dialect-heavy books with caution. I tiptoed my way into Scarlet after reading reviews mentioning the main character’s speech pattern. Scarlet—Gaughen’s disguised-as-a-boy version of legend’s Will Scarlet—speaks in a lower-class tongue, which for some reviewers took some getting used to. For example:
“Never would I have a man saying what or who were best for me, and that were all there were to it.” 
I worried the dialect would be heavy handed. But Scarlet’s dialect was natural and, while rough, had its own beautiful cadence. If you plan to include a certain dialect in your story, give Scarlet and Lady Thief a read. This is how you do it.

3. The characters. Both Scarlet and Lady Thief have exciting plots that zip along, but it’s the characters that had me counting down the days until Lady Thief published. It would have been easy for Gaughen to create caricatures—it’s been done a dozen times with the Robin Hood legend alone. But Scarlet, Robin, the other Merry Men, John and Much, are all real and raw and troubled and full of heart. Gaughen isn’t afraid to give her characters demons, and I was impressed with how their pasts affected them over the course of two novels.

Writers, take note: If you want know how to use characters’ personality flaws to deepen their relationship with others and further the plot, study Robin and Scarlet. Both have some serious guilt and anger, both feel unworthy, and both sacrifice for others. The characteristics appear differently in Robin and Scarlet, but in both they are at times heartbreaking.

4. The villains. I love a villain who makes me question my hate, and that’s what happened in Lady Thief. Did I love him? No, but mostly because this isn’t Warner we’re talking about. But Gaughen took a man with no redeemable qualities in Scarlet and made me understand and feel for him.

5. The romance. I’m a sucker for romance, no matter the genre, and I wasn’t disappointed in either of these books. And before you go all “but the love triangle!” on me, let me explain. Yes, there is a love triangle with Scarlet, Robin Hood, and Little John. But it works. It’s not a love triangle in the traditional sense of the term—Scarlet doesn’t waffle between the two boys. At least, it seemed clear to me who had her heart, no matter how she felt about him or how she felt he felt about her. I’m fairly certain that last sentence made sense.

I could go on and on with the reasons I love this series, but I’d give the whole thing away. Just know that Scarlet is good. Really good. And Lady Thief is even better.

What series have you recently fallen in love with?

Monday, March 24, 2014

From the Vault - Spring Break Settings

Every Monday we post a reading/writing-related question for our followers, and at the end of the month, one lucky commenter is selected to choose a title from our Vault. Whatever we have available: ARCs, signed books, awesome new releases... OR the monthly winner may select any one book to be ordered for him/her from the Book Depository

(To enter, follow YA Confidential and make sure your email address is linked to your comment in some way. We'll need to get in touch with you if you win.)

Today's question --> Sticking with the Spring Break theme... In which YA novel's setting would you most like to vacation?

Matthew - Wow. Tough one. I really like Fantasy, but I don't read that much YA Fantasy. I guess I'll go with STORMDANCER, since I just love that setting, even though it's not all that beautiful or anything.

Alexandra - Other than Hogwarts (obviously), I would love to visit the worlds in the following: INCARCERON by Catherine Fisher, BURN BRIGHT by Marianne de Pierres, DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE by Laini Taylor, and SABRIEL by Garth Nix.

Alison - Any setting with a beach and a beach house. And serene blue-green waters. And temperatures that only fluctuate between 70˚ and 90˚F.

Tracey - Definitely not a dystopian, that’s for certain. I’d love to hop right into ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS’s setting. Paris is always a good idea.

Jaime - Well, I read a lot of YA sci-fi and fantasy, so I can pretty much say that I wouldn’t like to visit most of the settings featured because: strife galore! I’d have to go with DAUGHTER OF SMOKE & BONE’s Prague or ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS’s Paris, because they’re both beautiful and rich in history and culture.

Sarah - Well, Hogwarts, obviously. But Kristin Rae's WISH YOU WERE ITALIAN (available in May!!) has an amazing Italian setting that I think everyone would love to visit, me included.

Katy – Of course I’d jump on the Hogwarts Express if I could, but if I’m sticking to the Muggle world, I’d love to travel the same islands as Bria from Kirsten Hubbard’s WANDERLOVE.

Leigh - Any Sarah Dessen novel. Major fan here. 

Your turn! In which YA novel's setting would you most like to vacation?

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