Friday, December 30, 2011


(stay tuned to the end of this post for our Comment of the Week winner!)

Happy New Year! And welcome to the final dude-centric Q&A of the year!

As we all know, guys are like cenotes, those mysterious sinkholes found in the Yucatan that are at once fascinating and highly dangerous. They draw you in with promises of fun and excitement but could lead to hypoxia-induced hallucinations. This phenomenon is known as The Bends, Decompression Sickness and He's-Looking-for-a-Substitute-Mother Syndrome.

Well, think of me as your emergency flotation device, ready to rocket you to the surface using my reality powered man-sub.

Here's today's question:

Q: Do boys feel threatened or more insecure when a girl appears more knowledgeable about a stereotypical “guy” topic (cars, sports, etc.) in front of his friends?

A: Yes. This is because a guy knows that when a woman exhibits superior knowledge in a stereotypically male area of expertise she is obviously trying to diminish his manhood.

Seriously, guys actually think this way.

I'll try to explain why.

Men are governed by something I'll call Lesson TransferenceTM, a process whereby guys acquire (usually through trial and error or by looking up the cheat code online) a simple understanding about one scenario and then assume this rudimentary knowledge applies in all related scenarios.

It's the reason why your boyfriend feels qualified, based solely on his Madden NFL standing, to offer drunken summaries of how he would lead his favorite football team to the victory that has so far eluded the team's vastly more experienced but obviously incompetent coach.

So when faced with the unfathomable (defined for our example as a woman with superior knowledge about, say, bacon), a man will paw through the mental Post-its and BBQ stained napkins where he writes down the simple rules he acquires in search of one that might explain such outrageousness.

Eventually he'll find a hand scrawled note on an old Transformers, Dark of the Moon ticket stub that states: if a bro knows more about something than I do and tells me so in front of other bros, he's showing off and trying to make me look bad.

See? Simple. Probably learned on a playground in third grade and further revision was deemed unnecessary.

But wait, you say! I'm a female bacon expert! Doesn't that ticket stub wisdom apply only to other bros? I've got a uterus, for God's sake!

Negatron, good buddy. Thanks to the magic of Lesson TransferenceTM, a lesson learned is a lesson transferred, no matter how wildly inappropriate the application of that lesson to the new scenario might be.

Insane as that is (and, seriously, you will never go broke betting against the male brain), the upside is that, on some level, a guy's insecurity in this example actually argues that he sees women as equals. Otherwise, he wouldn't treat them just as poorly as he does his other male friends. And just like he did with his closest buds, he'll eventually see your superior knowledge as a resource and not a threat.

So if you're a woman and you know a ton about male stuff, speak up! Our files on bacon and sprayable cheese have plenty of room for expansion.

And if you know ANYTHING about sprayable bacon, call me. I'll be right here, eating my legacy bacon and dreaming of the future.

Copil Yanez is on a quest to go beyond sprayable bacon into the realm of inhalable bacon. Until then, he's happy to answer your questions on any topic. Send your questions to copil[DOT]yanez[AT]gmail[DOT]com.


Comment of the Week!

Each Thursday we ask you a question. 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, we'll be closed for New Years so we're announcing our winner early!

Yesterday we asked you to tell us about your favorite book of 2011. Our favorite comment was from...

I *love* your choices, guys. 
The best book I've read this year is Stephanie Perkins' ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS, because I think it surprised me the most. To be honest, I'm not a big fan of out-and-out romances. I like them, yeah, but they don't generally jump to my 'favourites forever' list. And frankly, ANNA doesn't have an extraordinary premise. BUT...I dunno, it might be Perkins' unusual execution of a not-very-unusual story or the added bonus of it taking place in Paris (PARIS!), somehow, ANNA turned out extraordinarily awesome. I was giddy while I read it, giddy after I read it, and I still feel giddy with joy when I think of it. A book that has THAT effect? Definitely deserves a best book award.
Thanks, Bee! What did we like about your comment? First, you acknowledged our good taste, mega-mad points for that!

Second, and more importantly, we really loved that this book was an unexpected surprise for you and that it still leaves you feeling giddy! Just like a good book should!

Thanks for your great comment, Bee! Please send us an email to claim your prize!

Thanks to everyone who participated this week! And check back next Thursday for another chance to win some fab stuff from The Vault!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Best Books of 2011

Wow. So this is our last Vault post until 2012! Crazy, right? Where did this year go? (No, I'm serious. If you have the answer, fill me in!)

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 the best book you read in 2011 and why?

Alexandra: The best book I read in 2011 was Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel. Reasons outlined in my fangirl gush of a review. ;) (Review!)

Alison: Difficult choice, much? This year I read the awesomeness that is Divergent, Where She Went, Beauty Queens, Shatter Me, The Sky is Everywhere…SO MANY. But, I also read The Hunger Games. And that will win the “best” prize every time.

Cristin: I suspect this is going to be a popular opinion, but my favorite book of 2011 was probably The Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Gorgeous writing and super original premise, and it lingered with me for a long time after finishing it. That said, my favorite reads of 2011 were the Queen's Thief books by Megan Whalen Turner, which have been out for ages but were new to me. I inhaled the four currently out in a couple of days and felt bereft when I finished the latest, A Conspiracy of Kings. Nothing could console me. I can tell they're going to be frequent re-reads for me.

Cambria: So. Hard. I mean, this question seriously PAINS me because there are just too many! Ok...the book I want to say I've already used twice before in previous answers, so I'm going to go a different route and pick Divergent by Veronica Roth. This book. Man, this book is EXCITING and FAST and COMPLEX and VISCERAL. After I finished reading it, I seriously contemplated picking it right back up and reading it all over again (but it's a doorstop of a book and my daughter was priorities, yanno).

Copil: Feed by M. T. Anderson. This book had me at “dystopian, high-tech satire.” And yet, what stands out most is how accurately Anderson captures the behavior of a decent but self-absorbed teen guy. Time and again, given the choice between simple apologies to make things right or silent withdrawal that results in heartbreak, the main character opts for the latter. My teen self called, he wants his highlights reel back.

Sara: Super hard to choose because I read a ton of amazeballs books this year. But I'm going to go with The Book Thief by Mark Zusak. Not only was this the best book I read all year, but I read it because YOU, our YA Con commenters, recommended it to me based of its amazing prose. And wow. You guys are fabulous at recommending books. <3 The prose is gorgeous, there's no denying it (you guys were absolutely right on), but I ended up with so. much. more. While enjoying the words, I accidentally fell in love with the characters. Though their stories ended with the book, I think they'll stay alive for me for a long, long time.

Karen: Daughter of Smoke and Bone. The world Laini Taylor created was beautiful, magical, and mysteriously wicked at times. I read the book months ago, but I still find myself looking at doors on streets and wondering where they might lead. And I will never view teeth the same way again.

Your turn!

I'll catch you in 2012 :)

Or, you know... in THREE DAYS. 


This year = flew by.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Best of 2011: Teens' Favorite Books

After we've told you everything else our teens loved about books in 2011, today they tell us their favorite 2011 releases, and the best book they read in 2011!

I had quite a few baaad reading ruts this year, but I definitely read some amazing outta-this-world type books, that totally makes reading worthwhile! I don’t think I could choose one favourite book of the year, but here are few mentions of books I loved! My favourite 2011 releases include: Hunting Lila and Saving June. Both are very different – one’s paranormal, the other’s contemporary – but both have excellent story’s, were lovely to read and had a delicious romance . *sighs*

Some of the other best books I read this year (but weren’t published in twenty-eleven) include: Anna and the French Kiss – Loved it! I’m sorry I judged you by your cover, but you can’t say that isn’t a cheesy cover. Anyways, forgive me? Read NOW if you haven’t read yet! The Hunger Games – Wow! Not my type at all, and I mean at all, seriously I hate killing and blood (bet you wondering why I picked it up then) but it was amazing! Book 1&2 of The Perfect Chemistry series – both are guilty pleasure with hot Mexican boys, what’s not to like!!

Stay by Deb Caletti may have been the best release this year, in my opinion. It touched me and when I first read it as an egalley, I wouldn't leave my computer because I was so captivated. I ran out to buy the book the day of the release, and I've revisited many of the pages over the year. An honorable mention is one of my favourite books (ever): The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta, which was really released last year in Australia but came to the Americas in March. This book tore me apart and everything about it drew me in.

Best book read in 2011: The Book Thief (Markus Zusak) wins by a landslide. Everything about it, from the writing style to the characters to the cover, I loved. I remember crying for a straight hour, for real. It was so touching and I can't believe I waited so long to read it.

I honestly didn't even know which books I read this year were released in 2011... but I have to say my favourite 2011 release (of the, like, 3 2011 releases that I read) was Jenna and Jonah's Fauxmance by Emily Franklin and Brendan Halpin. I have a thing for quirky romances, especially ones written in alternating perspectives between the guy and the girl. :D The best book I read this year was Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta. I actually read it twice. It was so amazing... there were so many beautiful stories behind each character and they were all woven together and... it was so good, I think everyone should read it. :)

My answer to both of those questions is Divergent by Veronica Roth. It was intense, action-packed, had a complex plot, relateable characters, and a romance that didn't take over the entire book.

Best book I've read this year? Just one book? Oh, boy. Well, that would be The Hunger Games then. I was a latecomer to the series and they really did change my life in the way everyone told me they would. They made me a stronger person, really. Focusing on a newer release, Divergent would have to be it. It was one of the most amazing debuts I’ve ever read! Other books like Incarceron, Sapphique, Wintergirls, and Before I Fall make the top of the list, too.

The best book I’ve read this year was Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet because, ironically it’s a bitterly sweet story of the after affects of the Japanese camps and what happened to them.

My favorite 2011 release was Touch of Frost by Jennifer Estep - This was the book that I had been waiting a long time for - it was just the perfect read. Jennifer Estep has crafted an amazing world, and has taken a really unique take on mythology. She blends different takes on mythology together, into this epic world of valkyries, Spartans, and gypsies. It has a perfect blend of romance, action, and problem solving.

And the best book I read this year that didn't come out this year was A Touch Morbid by Leah Clifford. This the second book in the A Touch Trilogy, and comes out February 2012. I was absolutely blown away by it! I loved A Touch Mortal, but Leah Clifford upped the stakes and wrote an amazing second book that I loved even more than book 1! Everything is bigger and better in this one, and I simply loved it. Leah Clifford is such an amazing writer.

So, what was your favorite 2011 release? And what was the best book (whether it came out in 2011 or not) that you read this year?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Teen Roundtable: THE BEST OF

It’s time again for our monthly Teen Roundtable with our Teen Spies! Check out our previous discussions about banned books, the paranormal genre, and what high school’s really like.

Since it’s December, we decided on a Wrap Up flair for this month’s roundtable and asked our SPIES about their favorites this year: favorite book, favorite YA relationships, favorite characters. Here’s what our SPIES had to say.

Relationships are usually a big part of YA books, so what would you say was your favourite relationship this year?

Alison: Katniss/Peeta will forever have my vote, but don't let that sway you.

Laura: I second that, Alison!

Katie: Katnis and Peeta

Lennon: Tris/Four, Peeta/Katniss, and gotta true, Bella/Edward

(Agent A note: Ooops)

Alexandra: So, what is it about Katniss and Peeta, y'all?

Alison: unconditional love

Cristin: And it wasn't instant or easy. Plus, for me, it's the trust thing. The fact that they were a partnership.

Lennon: um, the same reason I like Edward. It's more passionate, real, complex, dangerous, sexy, it's what every girl wants

Laura:I fell deeply for Peeta Mellark's buns.

Cue incessant LOLs

Cristin: So besides Katniss and Peeta, were there any other couples from books this year who you got passionate about?

Lissa: Tom Mackee and Tara Finke from The Piper’s Son (Melina Marchetta). They’re relationship was so perfectly crafted, and their dialogue and chemistry floated off the page.

Laura: I really loved the relationship between Tris and Four. Though Tris annoyed me at first, together they just complimented each other so well. He brought out the best in her, you could say. Then there’s Lena and Alex(Delirium) – ooooh, Alex! For the same reasons as Tris and Four, I loved this couple.

What about writing? What's the most beautifully WRITTEN book you read this year?

Lissa: The Book Thief was just so complexly written and gorgeous that it brought me to tears and made me love each and every one of the characters. Also, I’d like to mention Entwined (Heather Dixon) because the writing was nearly flawless to me, just as beautiful as the cover of the book.

Katie: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Laura: The most beautifully read book I’ve read this year would definitely be Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson. Her words seized me from start to beginning and left me breathless and craving. I love her.

Any books you're particularly looking forward to next year?

Lissa: The Golden Lily (Bloodlines #2), The Calling (Darkest Rising #2), Froi of the Exiles (Lumatere #2) and John Green’s new book of course!

Lennon: The second Divergent


(Cue massive speculation tangent on Veronica Roth’s possible title choices for book three)

Lennon: oh, and the final Bad Girls Don’t Die book

Alison: I know which book Lynsay's waiting for.

Alexandra: which?

Lynsay: GG5! (The next Gallagher Girls Book)

Cristin: Ally Carter's Heist Society books are some of my favs, soooo fun.

Lynsay: I heart all things Ally Carter

Laura: I've got the first Gallagher Girls book and Heist Society waiting for me patiently in my bookshelf right now. Oopps!

Cristin: Read Heist Society! It's like Ocean's Eleven with teenagers.

(Agent A note: Are you guys sold on that one yet? I was!)

Round up on fave characters…

Favorite villain?

Laura: I have heaps! It’s so weird, but I’m usually Team Villain in a lot of young adult novels, especially romance. Is that bad? Villains usually have a lot more depth than most characters, even when they’re not well described or even explained. Answering the question, one of my favorite villains this year is Queen Sia in Sapphique. I imagine her as this big, puffy white cloud of disguised evil with her creepy white eyes and diabolically genius plots.

Lennon: Aralt or Sarah- Bad Girls Don't Die

Lissa: The best villain…I’m going to have to say Avari from The Soul Screamers series (Rachel Vincent). The guy made me wanna throw my book.

Fave BFF?

Lissa: Zuzana from Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Laini Taylor) – she made me laugh constantly and she was an incredibly thoughtful friend.

Laura: Josh and Emma were a great combination in The Future of Us. So real! I just loved reading about them.

Lennon: Megan- Bad Girls Don't Die

Favorite Main Character?

Katie: Sabriel in the Abhorrsen series

Lissa: Kaylee from The Soul Screamers series, or possibly Cassel from The Curse Workers (Holly Black)

Laura: Katniss, duh! I know this seems like an easy answer, but she really is! She taught be how to be strong and brave. I’m forever indebted. Also, I have a girl-crush on Jennifer Lawrence. She is just remarkable!

Lennon: Tris/Katniss/Lexi/Kasey(Bad Girls Don’t Die)

Alexandra: So Bad Girls Don't Die must be pretty awesome, then, right?

Lennon: um, yeah! its amazing! add Carter/Lexi to the couples list

Funniest character?

Katie: Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird

Lissa: Anna from Anna and the French Kiss (Stephanie Perkins) because dayum did that girl make LOL.

Speaking of funny, What was the FUNNIEST book you read this year?

Lissa: Anna and the French Kiss wins by a landslide.

Laura: It wasn't exactly a comedy, but I did read two John Green books this year. Looking for Alaska definitely ranked higher for me than Paper Towns.

Katie: I don’t really read funny books. If I had to pick on it would be To Kill a Mockingbird.

Anything change for you as a reader or writer this year? Like, did you start reading more ebooks or following author's blogs or anything like that?

Laura: Well, I bought a Kindle so I've been reading HEAPS of eBooks this year.

Cristin: Has having a Kindle changed your mind about ebooks and the e-revolution at all?

Laura: It’s more…convenient. More space. But there’s nothing like physically holding a real book in your hands.

Lennon: This blog changed a lot for me as a writer and a reader. I cant do ereaders, they bug me.

Lissa: As a reader, I’ve fallen into the online-loop of the reading a world a little more, and then fallen back out of it around the middle of the year. My time management sucks, so the best I’m usually able to do is keep up (barely) with my reviewing, and check out Goodreads and YA Confidential. My blog has taken a huge downfall because I just haven’t had time to maintain it this year, but I’m hoping to get some work done with it next year.

Review-wise, I’m very happy with how much I’ve grown as a reader/reviewer. I can happily admit that I can totally tell the crap from the good stuff for sure now.

This last discussion led to tangents on Halo, fangirl love for Taylor Kitsch, and television shows. Hee. Imagine that. ;)



Lissa: GOSSIP GIRL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Or Vampire Diaries, take your pick

Laura: Aww, I've gotta be loyal and say Heartland.

Katie: CHUCK! I’m a huge Chuck fan. A new show that I think I’ll watch next season is Terra Nova.

What is your fave movie adaption or movie or TV show that you think would make a good book?

Lissa: Breaking Dawn was pretty awesome. I’m SO FREAKING EXCITED to see Hunger Games next year, you have no idea. Also, I’d love to see If I Stay as a film.

Katie: I think a good movie that would be a great book would be Inception.

And there you have it. Our SPIES (ahem…and Operative) faves of the year. I hope you enjoyed this month's round up of their favorite characters, TV shows—

Hold up. I forgot one super important topic!

Favorite Book of the Year?!?!?!

Our SPIES had a lot to say on this one. So many books, some seriously tough choices.

Laura: Best book I've read this year? Just one book? Oh, boy.

(Cue massive list)

Laura: Okay. So I can't just choose one book

And just what books did Laura and the rest of our SPIES choose? Tune in tomorrow when Agent Fem hosts a best book wrap up with our SPIES and ANALYSTS!

Got an idea for a Teen Roundtable you’d like to see? What are some of your favorites from 2011? Let us know in the comments!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas!

(stay tuned to the end of this post for our Comment of the Week winner!)

Hi everyone, Future Santa here! I'm writing to you from the year 2032. Things were looking pretty bleak in your time so I thought I'd deliver some holiday cheer in the form of a peek into the future. A lot has changed since 2011, most of it for the better. Golf is still televised, though. Seriously, you guys mystify me sometimes.

In order to get this message to you, I consulted with some friends at Caltech, the same folks who developed the Bose-Einstein matter laser that teleports me around the globe on Christmas Eve. They warned me about potential paradoxes, like what happens if I tell you how the future turns out but then you do something to screw it up and instead of a snake-free utopia with indie bookstores on every corner we end up with a smog-choked wasteland where all books are Modelland by Tyra Banks.

I told them I wasn't worried about you guys remembering what I tell you and messing it up. If I've learned one thing about townies, you guys have terrible memories. Example? In your time, some of you are seriously considering Newt Gingrich as a viable Republican candidate for president. Uh, the 90s called, they want their dementor back.

Actually, the 2012 election is a good place to start telling you about the future. Spoiler alert: Obama wins. Romney puts up a good fight but in the end he simply can't figure out who he has to eff to get some respect from his own party. It's a total class move when Obama makes him Treasury Secretary. That leads to improved bipartisan support for the Big O and in 2014 you'll ratify the 28th Amendment which removes the two-term limit on the presidency and paves the way for a third Obama term where things really start cooking. Most historians agree his fourth term is basically a victory lap.

By the way, you'll also ratify the 29th  Amendment which makes marijuana and gay marriage legal (you combined the two because you figured the social conservatives would be too busy with their exploding heads to put up much of a fight). Rest up, you'll do some serious partying that Christmas! I move a ton of bongs. And I finally make an honest man out of the other Mr. Clause.

By the 2020's, you'll see record low unemployment, universal literacy, and unprecedented investment in libraries (which become the place to hang out after America's Next Top Novelist sweeps the Emmys). Books become the coin of the realm where a lightly dogeared David Foster Wallace will put you in a new fur (which, as part of new Wall Street regulations, will be made from harvested investment banker nut hair).

You'll also be happy to hear that all those dark days toiling in the word mines pay off. In the coming years, many of you will publish powerful works of astonishing beauty. All those trunked NaNoWriMo projects are pulled out in 2012 and revised to within an inch of their lives. Most of you stop being afraid of your own success and start being guardians of your lifelong dreams. You realize how much you've allowed the doubters and cynics to determine your worth and ban them from your life.

A few weeks later, agents start querying you.

I'm telling you, the future is awesome. People use semi-colons properly, books are the new “apps” and everyone looks better due to in-home plastic surgery kits from Apple.

Also, bees make a comeback.

So go ahead and enjoy Christmas 2011. Spend time with your loved ones and, even if you can't afford everything you wanted this year, remember that a few years from now personal 3D printers will make it possible for you to build anything you want out of repurposed dog poo.

Once you realize you can have anything you want, you'll only want the things you really need. For most of you, that's a sharp pencil and a blank page.

Enjoy your future! And Merry Christmas!

Future Santa

P.S.: In case you were wondering what agents want most in 2032, it's the same thing they've been asking for since 2005: please, no more vampire queries.

When he's not bringing joy to millions on Christmas Eve, Future Santa runs a pawn shop in East L.A. and answers to the name Copil Yanez. No one knows why.


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, we'll be closed for the holiday so we're announcing our winner early!

This week's winner told us about her favorite buzz-worthy book that hasn't received enough attention. Our winner is. . .

Want to Go Private by Sara Darer Littman. It's really hard to do an issue book without preaching, but I think Littman did so beautifully. The book made me think on so many levels: as an Internet user, as a woman, as a parent. It was graphic and unrelenting and hard to read, but also balanced and sentitive. But I made my husband read and when my daughter is old enough, I want her to read it, too, so we can talk about the difficult issues it raises.  
I really wish, in this day and age of sexting and Facebook and the way many people are utterly dispensing with the idea of personal privacy in favor of an online persona, that this book had gotten more attention.
We love it when books feel intensely relevant to our lives. Thanks for your great comment, Anonymeet! Please send us an email to claim your prize!

Thanks to everyone who participated this week! And check back next Thursday for another chance to win some fab stuff from The Vault!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Buzz-worthy Reads

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 book have you LOVED that hasn't gotten a lot of buzz? And how did you hear about it?

Our Answers: 

Sara: Do you like to laugh? Unless you answered no (and in that case, really?) then Swim the Fly by Don Calame is absolutely a must read. Three boys (none of whom have ever even asked a girl out), one summer, one shared goal: See a real-live naked girl for the first time. I cracked up on every page and wish it was about twice as long because I so didn't want the story to end. The book was recommended to me at dinner during a conference. We went around the table and everyone listed a book they'd recently loved. It's been one of my favorite things to do at conferences ever since!

Alison: Boy Toy by Barry Lyga. It didn’t come out this year, and it may have gotten buzz when it did hit the shelves, but I only heard about it through a friend’s recommendation, and WOW. I have an affinity for male protagonists and authentic, powerful male voices. This book not only has that, but also a hugely compelling story. It’s a MUST READ. Trust me.

Karen: Open Minds by Susan Kaye Quinn mindjacked me into staying up all night, flipping the pages to see what would happen next. Quinn's near-future where everyone reads minds felt so realistic and really made me think--if I could actually control other people, how far would I take it? 

Alexandra: I don't think Catherine Fisher's Oracle trilogy has received NEARLY enough buzz. It starts with The Oracle Betrayed, and it's set in a world that's based on ancient Egypt with a little bit of ancient Greece thrown in, too. The protagonist is a shy girl named Mirany who realizes that she can hear their culture's god instead of the priestess whose job it is to communicate with the god. I discovered the first book years ago, when I was still in high school, just by browsing at Barnes and Noble. People know Catherine Fisher for writing Incarceron (which is also a fantastic book!) and I hope all the buzz that Incarceron is getting prompts some people to pick up other Fisher novels as well!

Cambria: There are seriously TOO many books that haven't gotten the buzz they deserve. Like, waaaay too many. (And I also want to add that it seems like a lot of these books are contemporary books which totally breaks my heart because I LOVE contemporary YA.) To make it simple, I looked at my book shelf and pulled out the first one that caught my eye that didn't get as much buzz as I would've liked -- Hold Still by Nina LaCour. This book is contemporary and quiet, but has characters that are so clearly drawn you want to be friends with them instantly. And the writing! It's poetic and beautiful, but totally accessible...Hold Still is the kind of book I want to write and Nina LaCour is the kind of YA writer I want to be. GO CHECK IT OUT and look for Nina's next book, The Disenchantments, coming out February 2012!

Cristin: Right now I'm loving StarCrossed by Elizabeth C. Bunce, which I heard about on Bookshelves of Doom. I really enjoyed Bunce's first book A Curse Dark As Gold and (like a lot of people) somehow missed StarCrossed's existence until now. It's a shame, because it's a great read! Feisty teenaged spy in disguise, political intrigue, nobles snowbound in a castle with a traitor in their midst, all very good stuff. The sequel recently came out, so as a promotion, they're selling the Kindle version for only $2.99. You should all get it!

Copil: Bushman Lives by Daniel Pinkwater. It's a Pinkwater, so it's not likely to get lost in the crowd. But it might not be on everyone's radar yet because it's not available at your favorite indie bookstore. In fact, it's not available anywhere. . .except here: That's right, you can read the serialized version online FOR FREE! I heard about it on twitter where it was mentioned by his agent, Jennifer Laughran (@literaticat).

Your turn!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What's For Lunch?

I don't know about you, but whenever the holidays tiptoe closer, I can't help but think about one thing. Now, I know what you're thinking--presents, twinkling lights, that overpowering aroma of fake pine trees wafting through the mall. Um, no. I'm talking about FOOD. Good old ham and/or turkey with plenty of sides and desserts to bring on a carb coma the size of Texas. Oh yeah.

So I guess you could say that for this Undercover Wednesday, my appetite pretty much led me to scope out a place we all know and love:

The School Cafeteria. 

You remember this place, yes? It's a setting that finds its way into many a YA stories, despite the warnings from our teen spies. BUT if the cafeteria is unavoidable in your book, then perhaps some uncovered intell from our Teen Spies and Teen Analysts will help you make this setting a little more...appetizing to your readers.

***Special thanks to Erica, Gracie, Rebecca, and Lynsay for dishing it out in today's Q&A!!!***

What are the staple foods always available in your cafeteria?

ERICA: Fries, burgers, chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, and pizza available every day. After that there were 2 lunch stations that varied depending on the day.
GRACIE: Fries, water, cookies (just a note that my school caf is super awesome because there's an awesome culinary arts program at my school)

REBECCA:  Sausage Rolls, Pies, Sandwiches and rolls

LYNSAY:  Pizza, Spaghetti, Baked Chicken, Nuggets, and Nachos
What are the meals you look forward to most?
ERICA: The food at my high school was not great so I would pack a lunch, so I didn't really look forward to a meal.

GRACIE: I usually bring a lunch (or eat at home if I have a spare that day). But honestly there is some really good specials - like chicken & Caesar salad, and this fancy taco dish thing. There's lots of variety. :)

REBECCA: My school made a mean hamburger and cheeseburger, would you believe that's probably the only thing I actually miss about school now that I do home-schooling -- true.  
LYNSAY: I don't eat in the cafeteria because it's insanely processed, but back in the day I liked the pizza.
 What is the worst meal?

ERICA: I thought the pizza was pretty awful. They tried to make it healthier and it was really gross - plus the cheese was never all the way melted.

LYNSAY: I think it really depends on the day. Sometimes things look different on different days.

Do a lot of people bring their own lunches and/or skip and leave school property to eat elsewhere? 

ERICA: Yes to both.  A good portion skip and go eat elsewhere, and also bring their own lunch. 

GRACIE: There's a lot of people who buy food from the caf (especially when the special is good) but there is a lot of people who go wherever for lunch. There's a few fast food places by my school, like Subway and McDonalds so people go there. Students with cars probably go farther. I'm sure a lot of people if they live close go home for lunch. 

REBECCA: We're not allowed to leave the premise, we have to eat on the school grounds. And alot, of people don’t bring lunch they go to the canteen. Seriously, I remember the line being crazy mad! 

LYNSAY: Yes. All my friends and I bring our lunch. We are lucky enough to have a microwave so we bring leftovers and frozen meals a lot.   

If people do bring their lunches in, what do they bring them in?

ERICA: I would always bring my lunch just in a brown paper bag.

GRACIE: If people stay and don't buy though, usually lunches are brought in plastic/paper bags, or just stuffed in backpacks and purses. You do see a lot of insulated lunch bags though, there are some very stylish lunch kits around. :)

REBECCA: They bring their lunch in lunch boxes but just take their food out as it's like socially unacceptable to lug around a lunch box.

LYNSAY: We all have lunch boxes that are cute.

What time do you eat lunch at school?

ERICA: My school has lunch from 10:40-1:50 in 4 lunch periods

GRACIE: Lunch hour starts at 12:03

REBECCA: About 12:30ish

LYNSAY: 10:30...ugh

How long is your lunch period?

ERICA: 30 minutes each with a 4 minute passing time before and after

GRACIE: My lunch period is 1 hour and everyone at my school has lunch at the same time

REBECCA: 40 minutes
LYNSAY: Lunch is around 25 minutes

Are teachers like undercover spies, lurking against the wall just waiting to bust someone for something? Or are they practically invisible during lunch period? 

ERICA: It depends on the teacher, but I'd say somewhere in between. My teachers would usually sita at a table and eat their lunch, but they would be ready to bust someone if a fight broke out or something. 

GRACIE: Teachers are in their classrooms at lunch time -- although a lot of them open their classes for extra help during the lunch hour. You'll find lots of students in classrooms getting extra help at lunch hour. In the cafeteria, though, there are no teachers (unless they're buying lunch). The caf supervisors are separate people than teachers, and they're kind of just there and don't lurk at all.

REBECCA: Teachers hang around the place lurking like spies and take pleasure in telling students off.

LYNSAY: Teachers = invisible. Assistant Principals = Very spy like.

How often do you skip lunch?

ERICA: I did from time to time.

GRACIE: Very often! Lunchtime is the busiest time of the day for the school. There's actually some classes that go on at lunch (like choir and some band classes and some others). Lunch is THE time for extra help, making up tests, and clubs like Student Council and our social justice group (and tons more).

LYNSAY: I'm always running around during lunch. It's a journalism thing. 

Does it seem like your lunch seating arrangements have a line drawn between: grade levels, cool kids vs. not-so cool kids, cliched groups, or is it a free-for-all and people sit anywhere they want?

ERICA: For the most part I would say [cliched groups], but there is my group of friends who don't really fit a cliche and are just friends with everyone and have a very mixed group.

GRACIE: Because my school's so big, not everyone can eat in the people eat anywhere throughout the school. There's benches in the corners where windows are that people tend to gravitate towards for lunch hangouts. Other people just sit on the floor near lockers and eat lunch. But as far as who people sit with...basically just with their group of friends. Generally the group of friends are all in the same grade, but people from different grades definitely do hang out with each other. I don't really see cliques at my school, just groups of friends.

REBECCA: We aren't allowed to mix with other grades. And it's kinda prohibited to sit wherever, I mean this is high school, you can't just sit anywhere unless you wanna get evil-eyed and glared down.

LYNSAY: The only division I really see is "cool" vs. "uncool" grade or anything else doesn't really apply.

How much does the standard lunch cost?

ERICA: $2.15

GRACIE: The special of the day is $5, and everything else I think is pretty much in that range


LYNSAY: $1.25

Do you know any names of your lunch ladies/men? If so, what are they?

Sadly, none of our teens who answered this question knew the names of their cafeteria staff. Lunch ladies need love, too, people! :)

So that does it! A lot of really good intell here for those of us who need to flavor our cafeteria scenes with more authentic details. And again, THANK YOU to Erica, Gracie, Lynsay, and Rebecca (who I found out is currently home schooled but attended public school last year and who's ALSO from Australia where they call their cafeteria a 'canteen')! You ladies provided such awesome, in-depth answers. Gourmet cheeseburgers and/or veggie burgers for you all!

Agent Cutta Mutha OUT.

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