Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Are Book Titles...Subliminal?

For the last Undercover Wednesday of November, I wanted to be all scientific and intuitive and thought provoking…


Okay. Stop laughing, people. You look ridiculous when you snort like that.


Ahem. Anyway, I decided to explore the phenomena of BOOK TITLES today! I should first mention that my purpose here isn't really to help anyone come up with a snazzy, kickass title. I mean, I'm a spy. Not a title doctor. But I hear if you pay Copil, like, five cents, he'll spit one out for you like a momma monkey searching for lice on her youngin' -- but you didn't hear it from me! My purpose is to see if I could find any discernible patterns in the YA titles that made it all the way to publication. And also, I'd be remiss as a spy if I didn't suspect something else going on in all this book-naming business…invisible ink messages, anyone???


Find out if subliminal messages exist in book titles.

Free will. The power of our mind. Coolness factor. Duh.


There are seriously TONS of books published each year…way too many for me to analyze effectively. So what I did was collect the titles from the YA books released this month (which would be November for anyone still suffering from a Thanksgiving carb coma). Then, I simply Wordled...And fooled around with the font, colors, format, etc., but that's not really the point, yeah?

What I found out was pretty interesting. Out of all 56 books released* this month, there were two words that featured prominently in my Wordle cloud:




Dark and Last, y'all. DARK. Opposite of light. LAST. Opposite of Beginning. Both words are pretty…depressing, no?

I suppose you could say both words are also dramatic. They give an immediate image. Provoke atmosphere and feeling. When we write for teens, we want all those things. We want to punch the air and hope the ripple effect knocks down a few telephone poles, or at the very least, to mess up Susie-Perfect-Hair's sculpted coif, amiright?

But when there are literally dozens and dozens of books lined up on a shelf, be it physical or virtual, do teens really pay attention to the title? Or is it just about cover love? ;)

(I don't know the answer here, so I'm hoping y'all will discuss in the comments!)

Here are some other interesting tidbits I found out from the 56 books.

There were:

5 titles starting with the letter F
4 starting with L
8 starting with The
19 one-word titles
5 alliterative titles
7 played on fairy tales or references to "story"
12 titles with darker themes (violence, death, pain)
17 with 3 or more words 

I'm sure there are other patterns, but I'm still trying to survive my 50K NaNo goal and failing horribly...WHICH REMINDS ME!

Y'all know today is the last day for NaNo, right? Which also means you have THE REST OF TODAY to enter our awesome NaNoTeen giveaway for 10-page crits from all of our YA Confidential Spies! This is a major prize, people. MAJOR! *channeling my inner Posh Spice*

So don't forget to enter the giveaway if you haven't already (and remember to follow the rules) AND let us know in the comments how you feel about current titles in YA books. Are there any trends you notice? Do you think DARK and LAST actually means something more or is it just a November thing because Mother Nature basically shuts her blinds and turns her iPod on to Evanescence during this time of year?

We'd love to hear from you!

Until then, Happy Book Title Analyzing and Good Luck for those pushing toward the final hours of NaNoWriMo!

*Titles used were found through Goodreads and may not include ALL books released during the month.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Today, our teen spy, Laura, is reviewing The Future of Us by Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler. I'd add my two cents, but, um... Laura pretty much already has them covered!

Book: The Future of Us
Authors: Jay Asher, Carolyn Mackler
Release Date: November 21, 2011

Want to win a copy? Leave a comment on today's review--and make sure to link to your email address.


Collaborations always seem like such a cool idea, but when put pen to paper, the idea can become…not-so cool. Conflicting ideas and different writing styles are frequent culprits of a collaboration gone wrong: but not here. Asher and Mackler have teamed up to create an absolute wonder that is sure to be one of the most talked about young adult books of the year. But isn’t that what happens when you combine two outstanding authors? It’s a formula that’s pretty straightforward and a guaranteed sure-fire hit (amazing authors + amazing idea = amazing book), and what a result it was!

The premise? Oh, boy! I mean, accessing your future through the internet, how awesome is that? Yes, please! And it’s an idea that will appeal to a range of ages, not just teens, being set in 1996 and including Facebook. I can almost hear everybody’s ears pricking up. Really, this duo was superb for the role. But you know you’re in good hands with two of the most intuitive and authentic voices in young-adult today.

The alternating point of views of the two main characters was beautifully written. The transition was so flawless sometimes you weren’t even aware of it! The plot was deliciously crafted, each character was appreciatively fleshed-out yet still real, and the writing was so well-balanced that you wouldn’t even suspect the writing role to be frequently exchanged.

This book is so rich with creativity and strong messages about embracing the moment and the life you’re living now; to appreciate the things you have, move away from the past, and worry about the future when you confront it. It has a little something for everyone, too, which is always nice. If you’re someone who enjoys a leisurely stroll down Nostalgia Lane with your Discman on, blasting Dave Matthews, then you will devour this book like comfort food. Or even if you are just someone who is investing themselves in an older era, because retro is, like, so in right now and, you know, the 90s are sooo old.

The Future of Us is a novel that offers so much in just the summary and does deliver on every level. It will stay in your hands all day until you have breezed through it and still want more. I was never bored, angry, mislead, and most certainly not disappointed. I guarantee you won’t be, either.

More about Laura:

Bio: Fifteen-year-old (going on 50) Aussie girl who writes for fun and for the future. Ever since she can remember, she’s had an unquenchable desire to read, anything and everything. LL believes that you don't need a good education if you've read good books. Therefore, Sarah Dessen is her savior. 
Legend: Once purposefully threw her copy of Twilight in the mud and screamed, "Be gone with you, Mary-Sue!"

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Real Teen Life: Morgan

We started YA Confidential with one thing in mind: All things teen, all the time. To stay on task with that goal, we'll frequently interview teens to gauge their thoughts on books and life. To read more, check out our past teen interviews!

Today's Interview: 

Name: Morgan
Age: 15/sophomore in HS
Sex: F
Location: East Coast

On Books

What’s your all-time favorite book? And what’s one that you read recently and loved? (And why?!)

My all time favorite book is a three-way tie between Looking for Alaska by John Green, Crank by Ellen Hopkins, and Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I loved these three books because all three writers are so talented and unique. They each write in their distinctly original way with their own unique style. I’ve read all three countless times. I honestly can't decide which is my favorite.

I read a lot. Most recently I read Silence by Becca Fitzpatrick. I liked it. I thought it was decently written. I loved the first book in the series, Hush, Hush, but I was disappointed by CrescendoSilence was much better and I liked it.

How do you decide which books to read, other than the ones assigned to you in school?

Deciding on a book to read is easy. I just go to Barnes and Noble and find the newest book that captures my attention. I've read almost the whole entire young adult section. So, when I go to Barnes and Nobles, I go to the newest books and find one with a nice cover.

Luckily my parents (you know my mom, Lola Sharp, and my dad) buy me as many books each week as I want (even when I’m out of allowance money). And my mom shares her books with me, both YA and adult. (I read all of her Charlaine Harris ‘Sookie’ books). (She reads my books, too.)

What keeps your interest in a book?

To keep me interested in a book, it needs to be different. So many books today are the same story over and over again, in the same style of writing. I like new ideas. I like fresh writing styles.

What do you wish you saw more of in books? (Types of characters, types of plots, etc.)

I wish I saw more new ideas in books. I really, really loved Harry Potter and The Hunger Games series. They had a new take on things and their own style of writing. I love that. But now every book is trying to be the ‘new’ Hunger Games or HP.

(I am legit excited about the HG movie coming in March!)

On a Day in the Life

Tell me about a standard day in your life during the school year. What’s your schedule like?

My schedule is really busy. I have school all day and then I come home and do homework. I'm an honors student, so I have a LOT of homework. I spend SO much time doing homework. Then I have dance classes. Then it’s home and shower and to bed, exhausted. What little time I have left I spend reading and watching TV. 

In my spare time, I like to hangout with my friends, read books, catch up on TV (I tivo my shows and catch up with them on the weekends), and shop. I am excellent at shopping. ☺ *interviewer intrusion* Yup. Knowing your mother? I am SO not surprised to hear that you're excellent at shopping too!

I hang out with my friends a lot on the weekends. We usually watch movies and gossip, normal girl stuff. My family and I travel a lot on the weekends: road trips, beach trips. We surf and shop and hike and stuff.

On Cliques

Do you encounter many cliques at school? Inclusive? Exclusive? Nice? Mean?

My school is huge. REALLY huge. So there's not that many cliques. We have our "popular" people but it's not too bad. I get along with all the ‘groups’ of people. And even though I’m only a sophomore, since I’m in all Honors and AP classes, I’m in class with lots of juniors and seniors, so I have lots of upper classmen friends, too. We don't have the mean girls of the school. It's kinda nice.

My dance studio is kind of far from my school district, so I have a lot of friends from the dance company that go to other high schools. There are some cliques in the dance company, but, again, I get along with everyone. I’m nice to everyone and everyone is nice to me.

On Drinking and Drugs

How common is drinking?

Drinking is pretty common at my school. I do not do it, but you always hear about the "crazy" parties and such.

What about drugs? (And, if so, which types?)

Drugs are also quite common at my school. Like all high schools, you have the stoners.

On Bullying

How common is bullying? In real life? Online? How do other people react to it?

Bullying is common at my school. I don't get picked on, and I’ve never picked on anyone, but there are people who do pick on others. Last year a boy in my grade killed himself (with his dad’s gun) because he was bullied so badly. He was the nicest kid. It's sad. People don't know when to stop.

On Sex

If you’re comfortable, tell me about what you hear, or know about sex as a teen? (Don’t worry! You don’t have to tell us anything personal here, generalized is fine—and, actually, preferred.)

There are plenty of girls (and boys) in my school having sex. (Some of them were having sex in middle school!) None of my close friends (or I) have had sex yet, even the ones who’ve been in long term relationships.

Thanks so much for answering my questions, Morgan!! You're welcome back anytime :) 

Pssssst... Are you a teen--or do you have one--who'd be interested in giving an interview? If so, contact us!

OH. And PS. Marsha Sigman? YOU WON a copy of Karen's TANGLED TIDES for your fabulous comment on last Friday's post!! Send us an email with your address, and we'll get it in the mail to you asap! 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

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, who told us what YA book she was most grateful for and why, is. . .

The book that I'm most thankful for.
I've thought about this one. I've thought about this one well.  There are so many books I could say, so many books that have changed me and my outlook on life.  But in the end, I choose this book.  And it is not actually my favorite book.  But it is the book I am most thankful for, because it has changed me more than any book I've ever read.Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

I first read this book months ago. I still think about it today.Is it a perfect book? No.  Is the writing stunning? No.  No, this book isn't what it is because it is some flawless, gorgeously written book with an insanely creative plot and kick-ass characters.This book is what it is because it makes you think. Because it makes you just stop and think.Through Clay's horrified eyes, and Hannah's own voice, we, the readers, our pulled through this book, story by story, seeing how every person on these tapes led to Hannah killing herself.  We watch it slowly piece itself together, and we sit there, horrified as Clay, already knowing how it will all end up.But what really gets you, the thing that still has me thinking months later, is that these people didn't know what they were doing. Some of them did terrible things, yes. But some of them, what they did, they thought it was harmless. Or if not harmless, certainly not anything of significance. Certainly not anything that mattered.Certainly not something for a girl to kill herself over.But it's the snowball effect. It's one thing upon another upon another, gaining power as it rolls on, until its huge weight just . . . crushes her. Boom. Gone.Maybe you spread around a list like Alex.  Or started rumors, like Justin.  Or abandoned a friend you didn't know needed you. Maybe you thought nothing of it at the time. Maybe it was nothing at the time.But maybe they're gone now.This book makes you realize that the slightest thing, just the slightest, tiniest, most inconsequential thing, can have such a huge effect on others.  That you have such a huge effect on others, more than you can ever imagine.  That you want the effect to be good.  That if you knew Hannah, you wouldn't want to be on one of those tapes.That is why I am thankful for this book.  Because it made me think. About myself, and about others, and myself and others, and everyone else and the people they interact with.  It opened my eyes.

Some books tell a story while others make you revisit the world you live in. We like that you chose a book that made you look at what kind of a person you are and want to be. Definitely a book to be thankful for. Thanks for your wonderful comment, Lexie!

Lexie, 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 fabu stuff from The Vault!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Ask-a-Dude: Tangled Tides Edition!

Hello, everyone, and welcome back to another installment of Ask-a-Dude!

I had a very special Ask-a-Dude planned for today dealing with the European Exchange Rate Mechanism and how it's used to vet potential Eurozone members.

But just as I was putting the finishing touches on that post, something remarkable happened!

Karen Hooper's water broke!

That's right, Karen Hooper, our very own Special K, is having a baby! Weighing in at 14.7 ounces and measuring 8.5 inches, please say hello to her new baby named Tangled Tides! (I think it's a family name).
Lucas if it had been a boy
Woohooo! I am told mother and child are doing fine and that Tangled Tides is already spewing meconium all over the other YA romantic fantasy in her section. You go, girl!

In honor of Tangled Tides, which is available NOW at all fine booksellers, Special K is hosting a Twitter contest where you can win a signed copy of the newborn! If you head over to, you'll find a list of sea creatures featured in her book with details on each one. To enter the contest, choose one of the sea creatures and let the world know whose side you're on (and why) by tweeting your choice! Be sure to include the hashtag #TangledTides to make sure you're entered!

So I guess I'll start. My name is Copil Yanez, I'm an Aquarius, I enjoy moonlit walks and I like Sirens like this one!
Fly, Siren, Fly!
Why? Duh, because they sing like the unholy love-child of Adele and Onslaught (the X-Men character with mind control powers? No? Oh, never mind). Also, someone told me that in human form they wear thigh-high tulip boots. I'm a sucker for tulip boots.

Andbutalso, to keep the party going, we're offering a copy of the book right here! To enter a chance to win, simply leave a comment below, letting us know which sea creature you chose and why. On Monday we'll pick one person at random to receive Karen's amazing debut! No, Karen, you can't enter. Thems the rules.

Yeah, it's time to get out your umbrella because it's raining awesomesauce all up in this bitch!

Seriously, we are so thrilled for our fellow operative and honored to be working with her. None of us can wait to get a copy in our hands!

Congratulations, Karen!

As a final tribute to Karen's offspring, today's Ask-a-Dude will answer the following question:

Q: What do guys really think of mermaids?

A: Honestly, most guys haven't given much thought to mermaids. For most of us, our initial contact with merfolk was this dude:
You know what they say about the size of a man's belt buckle
Now before you get your fish sticks in a froth, I know Aquaman is not a merman. He was a human who could stay underwater longer than a U.S. mortgage and communicated telepathically with fish to make them do his bidding (just like my ex, Vanessa). He was also a member of the Justice League, built like a steroid junkie and lived next to Spongebob. What's not to like?

So why do guys have a problem making the leap from Aquaman to merkind?

Simple. Men don't trust anything that lacks discernible genitalia.

That includes Barbie and Ken dolls, anything that reproduces via sporogenesis, those giant blue people from Avatar and, of course, merfolk.

Now I'm not entirely sure merfolk don't have genitalia. I mean, clearly merfolk reproduce somehow. Maybe mermen spew their seed into the water and then mermaids squeeze their eggs into the semen cloud for fertilization. So basically like the Duggars do it.

I'm just guessing, of course. And that's the problem. If men can't picture the coital process easily then we can't draw obscene stick figure representations of it. To guys, crude drawings, which we fold with great care into triangles and flick across the room to our bros, help us fathom the world around us. They're like bathroom stall versions of the Lascaux cave drawings (only with waaaay more boobage). To guys, perception is reality and without apprehensible scenarios easily depicted in lewd images, we're all like “meh.”

Look, maybe merfolk genitalia is removable. Or invisible. Or painted in fish-scale camouflage. Whatever the explanation, I expect to find it in Karen's book along with why mermaids have such silky Pantene hair when it's obviously over-hydrated and chock-full of ocean chlorides.

So in addition to amazing storytelling, great romance and fantastic adventures, I'm telling my buds to read the book for explicit depictions of mersex (also known as the fish with two backs, riding the seahorse, knockin' fins, and spelunking Ariel's grotto).

It's time for guys to overcome their anxieties about dickless fish people. The chance to unravel tantalizing merfolk mysteries far outweighs our fears. And as soon as one of us (usually the least talented and most profane) has an answer, he will send around .jpg attachments titled “MERFOLK THREESOME, OPEN IMMEDIATELY – NSFW!”

And thus is how knowledge spreads among our kind.

(Love you, Karen!)

Copil Yanez keeps a gorgon in his pool to control algae blooms. Anatomical drawings of merfolk as well as stick figure boobie jokes should be sent to copil [dot] yanez [at] gmail [dot] com.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Hopefully all of you have plans with friends and family and have many, many things to be thankful for this year.

Your humble Operatives certainly do and we'd like to highlight one of our blessings right now.

Karen Hooper, take a bow!

You know her as Agent K, we know her as Queen of the Awesome. Why? Because Karen has not only put an incredible amount of heart and soul into this site, she's done all of it while under the pressure of getting ready for the launch of her new book, Tangled Tides! If you missed yesterday's post by Fem Fatale, check out her fantastic comic tribute to mermaids! Then head over to for more information about Karen's amazing debut novel!

And be sure to join us tomorrow for an extra-special Ask-a-Dude! dedicated to Karen and her merfolk as well as a chance to win a copy of the book!

In the meantime, we have stuff to give away! As you know, 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 :)

In honor of the holiday, here's today's question:
What YA book are you most thankful for and why?

Our answers:

Alexandra: There are so many YA novels I'm grateful for because they turned me into a voracious reader and because they exposed me to what became my favorite genre: fantasy. But one novel in particular didn't inspire me just to read, but to write, and that's SABRIEL by Garth Nix. From the very first page I was in awe of the dark world Nix created. I loved that horror mingled with fantasy, that the dead didn't stay dead, and that Sabriel walked the river Styx to find risen dead and bind them. It was the first time I can remember thinking, "I want to create a dark world of my own. I want to make stories. I want to do THIS." (There wasn't really SABRIEL fanfiction online, so my first fanfiction ended up being Harry Potter, but that's a different story.) I'm still in awe of the sheer brilliance of the book, even when I re-read it as an adult (which I do often.)

Karen: Mine was I Never Promised You a Rose Garden by Joanne Greenburg. I was around twelve or so when a friend (we'll call her Jane to protect her identity) gave me her copy and said, "I feel exactly like the girl in this book." The book was a about a sixteen-year-old girl with Schizophrenia who had tried to commit suicide, and created an elaborate fantasy world to escape from reality. The story itself was emotional, thought-provoking, and disturbing at times. But to know that my friend felt as lost and crazy as the main character really concerned me. We had lots of long talks about it, and she'd constantly reference the book and ask me what I thought Deborah would do--which was really Jane asking me what she should do. That book gave her a way to tell me how lost, alone, and misunderstood she felt, and many times I wondered if she would have been able to be so open about her feelings if she hadn't read that book and felt such a strong connection to the MC. I'd always loved books for their entertainment value, but it was at that point in my life that I also realized how much books could help people.

Cambria: This is the toughest question because, honestly, I'm grateful for every single YA book on the shelf. The more books out there, the more readers have to read. But that's sort of a cop out answer, yes? So the book I'm most grateful for is Christopher Pike's Fall Into Darkness. I was nine years old and it was the first YA book I ever read before I went on a binge of reading every Pike, R.L. Stine, and Lois Duncan book ever made. PLUS, Fall Into Darkness was made into a TV movie with Jonathan Brandis (ahhhhh!) and Tatyana Ali from Fresh Prince of Bel Air! SO CHEESY AND SO GOOD!

Copil: Lizard Music by Daniel Pinkwater. Until I read Lizard Music, I thought characters had to live in Middle Earth or on alien planets to have adventures. This book not only introduced me to contemporary YA/fantasy/sci-fi/bring-the-crazy, it came off the page and warped my world in a way that made adventure seem as close as my front door. I write for the sole purpose of keeping myself busy between Pinkwater books. 

Cristin: The YA(ish) novel I'm most thankful for is Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. It was while reading The Subtle Knife that I decided that I was done reading boring grown-up books and discovered the amazing new world of YA that had developed since I was a kid. Without that, I never would have decided to start writing novels myself. His Dark Materials also impacted me way beyond my reading habits by giving me a way to articulate my beliefs about the world which I had never been able to put into words on my own, which was a tremendous relief and opened up a lot of doors to better self-understanding for me.

Alison: There are so many YA books I’m grateful for. Books that have inspired me, books that have helped me improve my writing, books whose characters I come to know as friends. But if I have to choose one (jeez), I will go with Maximum Ride by James Patterson. I’ve always read Patterson so for me, reading this series was a no-brainer. But for some reason, after I bought and flew through the fourth book in the series, I felt compelled to read the first three again. And again. That’s when I discovered my love of YA - reading it and writing it. And I haven’t looked back. The past four years have been filled with so many amazing characters and fantastical settings and magical stories, a new thrill every time I pick up a book. I guess you could say it’s been my own maximum ride.

Your turn!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

All The Mermaids Are Talking About It

On Friday something awesome is happening! Our wonderful operative Karen Hooper's book TANGLED TIDES will be released! We're all so happy and so proud of her. So the only thing it makes sense for me to talk about today is TANGLED TIDES!

Since this is undercover Wednesday, I went undercover (read: searched on Wikipedia) and did some research on all the creatures that show up in TANGLED TIDES.

Karen's merfolk are accompanied by selkies, sirens, and gorgons, and there's some seriously cool mythology in the book. Everyone's probably heard a bit about each of these creatures, but there's a lot I bet you didn't know. In the original legend, sirens are actually seductive bird women--not mermaids or something like mermaids. And gorgon blood can be fatal or can have healing properties. If you want to keep a selkie as a lover, you have to steal his or her skin. But selkies don't do well without their skins, and you might end up killing your lover instead.

If you think that's cool, you should wait until you see the twists and spins Karen put on the mythology. It's seriously good stuff.

And I don't know if you knew this, but all the mermaids are really excited to read TANGLED TIDES. Especially because mermaids don't actually wear seashell bras (how uncomfortable!) and they're glad Karen got it right in her book.

I went forward in time (sorry, can't loan out my time machine. "Borrowed" it from H.G. Wells) and followed them around on Friday even though I don't like to get my hair wet when I swim, and recorded their experience in this very scientific manner you see below. I wanted to get them in their natural habitat. Did you know that mermaids have access to Amazon? I had no idea!

Clicky clicky to make bigger.

Note to self: water + book = disaster. (I made that comic as a present. I hope it's not TOO embarrassing... It's so hard to give gifts over the internet! I also hope no mermaids take offense.)

If you haven't seen it yet, check out the TANGLED TIDES book trailer. Karen MADE this. I'm still in awe at how complex it is.

And don't forget to come back on Friday! We'll be having a giveaway and you could win a copy of TANGLED TIDES!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Teen Roundtable: High School

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

Unfortunately, we were bad YA authors this month and accidentally scheduled our discussion for the same night as the Breaking Dawn premiere, so we were a little light on Spies. But don’t worry! Lynsay, Lissa and Scotie had so many good things to say that you won’t miss the others (too much!).

This month’s topic was HIGH SCHOOL. From cliques to bullying to boys, what does YA get right and wrong?

On Cliques

Lynsay: I don't really notice hugely exclusive cliques at my school [600-700 students]. Like, you will not find all the cheerleaders hanging together. They have their own circle with people that aren't necessarily cheerleaders. The popular kids do tend to be athletes in general, but I do go to a largely athletic school.

Lissa: At my school [1400 students], the "popular" kids are the stoners/partiers and athletes. Also, the very "slutty" girls seem to be very popular.

Cristin: Are there any unpopular cheerleaders/football players (who are almost always the popular kids in YA)? Or popular band kids? Just how rigid is the social divide? And who's the bottom of the rung?

Lynsay: There are a lot of popular band kids who will hang with popular Cheerleaders and such. And yes there are unpopular football players and cheerleaders. The bottom rung is hard because it's like, the loners? But I guess that's the point of being the bottom and I don't know why.

Scotie: The thing I love about my school is that the people who would be "popular" at normal high school are the unpopular kids. We don't really have cliques, everyone hangs out with everyone. At Early College, it really is like a family. Are there mean kids there? Sure, but the drama is nothing like what I here going on at my base school, where I would be going to school if I hadn't been accepted here.

Lissa: I think cliques are more of a thing in smaller schools where everyone knows everyone. At my school, everyone talks to everyone, and we're all decent to one another - generally. Still, there are the groups in which everyone wants to be part of. The "fun" kids.

Cristin: So do that mean there’s some aspect of social climbing at your school?

Lissa: Yes, there’s social climbing, definitely. You have to get to know everyone, get to be with them, and you'll be associated. The thing is, though, everyone DOES hang out with everyone. The cool group has friends outside the "cool group," and they're not judged on that. I guess to get into the cool group would be to get one of them alone, and then just start sneaking your way in.

Alexandra: do girls ever sleep around with jocks etc. to become more popular?

Lissa: I think so. There are a few girls in my grade that are hanging off of jocks to get "in" with the older, cooler, (hotter) kids.

On Parties

Alexandra: You’ve read about that big house party or seen it in movies, right? Where someone's parents go away and practically the whole school goes to get trashed? Does that actually happen or is it way exaggerated?

Lynsay: I do not party or drink but I here less about huge parties and more about people getting trashed with their group of friends

Lissa:  Exactly. I don't hear much about parties per se, but more about drunken nights with a close group of friends.

On Bullying

Lissa: I don't see much bullying, but I know it's there. I think it may be more Facebook-oriented, but the biggest bullying that I see commonly is name-calling and stuff, but usually in manners that could be considered "playful." But in my grade, we’re still trying to adjust and find our group of friends. It's hard to tell right now what might be set in stone in the future.

Lynsay: Well, I definitely see online bullying. At another school in the area, someone made a Facebook like page that said "Name Name is a slut" and people were liking it. It was so insulting and terrible, but of course you wouldn't know who made the page. But everything else is more like "talking about people.”

Lissa:  What's unfortunate at my school is that the kids being picked on don't really understand English, or they do, but are immigrants. They'll do anything for attention, even if it means getting laughed at.

Scotie: Bullying is not allowed at my school. Student government and the staff makes that perfectly clear. However, there are mean girls at my school. I haven't been involved in that much drama myself, even though my friends star in most of it.

On Their Typical Day

Lynsay: Arrive in the morning barely on time like 7:20 ish. Sing in Chorus, then English, lunch with my staff in the Journalism Room, Journalism, AP Earth and Environmental., out at 2:15pm. After school usually taking pictures for school or attending club meetings.

Lissa: I'll get up at 8, but school starts at 8:55. I skip breakfast and I'm at school by 8:45 after walkking there with my friends. And then I'll go to my four classes (75-mins each) and will have lunch with my friends with the same lunch. I get out at 3, but on Wednesdays at 5:30 because I'm in band. I'll usually hang around school for a bit and talk to people, and then will head home. I don't get much homework this semester, but next semester I'll get a lot because of my classes. This semester, I get some French and English homework, three-four times a week, but unless it's a summative task, it doesn't take too long. I usually read or hang out on the computer, and talk/IM friends, or go "chill" with them at parks or the mall for downtime.

Scotie: My schedule is as thus: Get to TCR 7:30, Ride bus the ABTech Early College 8:00, IMAPS 2 (Math and Science) 8:30-10:00, English 1 10:00- 11:30, House/Study Hall/Lunch 11:30-1:00, World History/Gym/ACA 1:00- 2:05. I have World History on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Gym on Tuesdays. ACA on Thursdays. This class is College/Career Prep class.

On What Contemporary YA Gets Wrong

Lissa: The athletes-are-huge-partiers cliche. A lot of serious athletes won't touch substances because they're afraid to wreck their chances. The emphasis on the "popular" crowd, because it's not ALWAYS like that. And parties, because I don't hear about many parties, or drugs really.

Alexandra: What about mean girls?

Lissa: Oh, there are the mean girls!!!! DEFINITELY! They just hide behind pretty masks. Everyone is two-faced. Seriously.

Lynsay: There are mean people, they just don't wearing matching outfits and put dye in people's shampoo and stuff. and I agree everything is not always so popularity driven. Lots of people talk to lots of other different people.

Scotie: I think that they over-do the whole cheerleaders and jocks thing. Not all of them are bad, though I agree most are. And cheerleaders and jocks aren't the only mean people. They downplay the some of the drama, but not all of it. Being openly gay or bisexual is normal at my school but my friend who goes to my base school doesn't get it so easy.

On Boys, Flirting, and Modern Technology

Lissa: I've been asked out by guys BY THEIR FRIENDS. It's terrible. WHAT SUCKED was that the guy who asked me out for his friend was my crush.

Lynsay: I think that flirting does still happen in person, but you get a lot of random boys messaging you on Facebook being like, "Hey girl, you look good." and it's just like is that what you would come up and say to me in person?

Lissa: I got asked out the other day online, and yes, relationships are mostly built online/texting, although you have to have had talked to the person a bit to even get their number/to texting/chatting online.

Alexandra: So, if a guy did text you and ask you out instead of doing it in person, let's say, would that relieve you or would that just make you irritated and would you wish he did it in person?

Lissa: It would irritate me if they never talked to me in person. There's this kid who only talks to me via texting, and hardly says a word to me in person.

Lynsay: Oh my goodness Lissa, I hate that let's be an awesome person over texting and pretend like I can't talk in person.

Karen: Where's Copil? Why isn't he weighing in on why boys are so dumb?

Copil: Oh, you need me to state the obvious?

Alexandra: Boys are stupid throw rocks at them?

Copil: Actually, I think technology today allows for a lot of insecurities to be covered. Put another way, guys will be even stupider with technology than they were without it.

Lissa: Sometimes they're sweet - usually when they're alone - but other times they're totally indifferent. Uusally, when with a group of guys, the guy will act totally indifferent to you, like you're just THERE.

Copil: The guys who like you find ways to talk to you even when it's not convenient or natural. They make embarrassing small talk and seem nervous because they are SURE you know their thoughts. I think I would probably have been that guy. The one who texted a crush because it felt safer.

On What Contemporary YA Is Missing

Lissa: Nothing really. YA seems to capture EVERYTHING!


And there you have it. I hope there’s some helpful information in here for you, especially those of you who write contemporary YA. Many thanks to our Spies who sacrificed the midnight showing of Breaking Dawn to share their insight with us!

Got an idea for a Teen Roundtable you’d like to see? Or are you a teen who’d like to contribute to YA Confidential? Email us and let us know!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Why Teens Inspire Me

I’ve been battling the self-doubt bug lately. I hit a massive wall with my writing, wonder if I’m ever going to get through this round of revisions, wonder if my stories will ever even be good enough to see a bookshelf other than my own. That feeling can be rather overwhelming, a sickness that festers, that perpetuates until it fogs your mind, affects your decisions, eats away at your soul.

It’s easy to let the self-doubt bug become a parasite. And last week, I was kind of there with it.

But then I was at my husband’s soccer game this past Tuesday. It was the Eastern finals, one game away from State Championship, and you could tell both sides wanted the win BAD. Our team goes up 1-0. Then, they come back and tie it up. Then right before the end of the first half, they take the lead 2-1. They have momentum, they have the edge, but my husband’s boys never stopped fighting. Even when a freakish call in the box ejects our goalie for two seconds, and one penalty kick later, we're down two goals. Even when the clock went to fifteen, then ten, then five minutes left. Even when some of the fans gave up and left the stadium, my husband’s boys never relented. They fought until the last second.

They lost, and yeah, I cried for like, two days. But reflecting back on it, I just thought about those boys and was just in utter AWE of their unbridled passion, their heart, their unwillingness to give up without a fight.

And I see this teen tenacity A LOT. And it inspires ME to keep going.

Let me tell you about the teens who inspire me.

I’m inspired by my football players, my soccer players, all of my athletes, who play with SO MUCH HEART and win games they probably shouldn’t.

I’m inspired by teens who set out to right wrongs. At my school, just over ten years ago, a group of teens was bothered by the second-hand smoke at athletic events. In fact, one girl’s asthma was so bad that she couldn’t even attend games and support her classmates. Andbutso, they did something about it. Several petitions, speeches, and presentations to school board members later, smoking was banned on school campuses across the county.

I’m inspired by that student in my classroom, the one who always struggles with math, but perseveres despite that. The one who, when I say, “You guys ready to go over this problem,” shouts, “NO!” And begs for one more minute so she can finish it herself.

I’m inspired by all these teens doing NaNo. I know of one teen who’s already finished her NaNo novel. That’s 50K in less than a month!

I’m inspired by my teens in the musicals, the ones who have to sing but contract laryngitis two days before opening night. They continue to rehearse what they can. And suck lemons and drink insane quantities of tea and honey so that the show can go on.

I’m inspired by the Jeanines of So You Think You Can Dance and the Scotty McHottys McCreerys of American Idol. Pursuing dreams AND achieving them as teens. Whoa.

I’m inspired by that student who DOES NOT want to take exams, who comes to school pale and sweating off a (probably contagious) flu bug so he doesn’t have to miss days. (Of course, I strap on the white mask and stick him in a corner so my students and I can keep our distance.)

I’m inspired by that student with the worst home life, who could easily be sucked into dealing drugs or a life of crime, but doesn’t. And instead, sticks out high school for a diploma. For something BETTER.

I love it when teens stand up for what they believe in, when they fight injustice, when they feel they have a voice because THEY DO. When it’s something they care about, something that’s important to them, something they BELIEVE in, a passion that extends beyond thirty seconds, there are some teens, many teens who will go for the win, or die trying.

Now you might be wondering, are ALL teens like this? No. But it’s like I’ve always done in any aspect of teaching. I can choose to focus on that one student who cusses like an upset coach and rolls her eyes twenty times in twenty minutes, or I can focus on the thirty other students who say thank you and are nice to each other and who are truly genuine caring human beings.

Likewise, I can choose to focus on student apathy or I can choose to focus on their passions. I teach a lot of students who are apathetic to math, but they are typically passionate about something. Skateboarding, body art, sports, books, dance, their jobs, their pets, their family. I love to hear what gets them going, what lights their fire. What they’re passionate about. Why?

Because their passion ignites my own.

It’s why I read so much YA. AND why I write it. And some of my favorite stories are those with the most tenacious characters. The ones who, when all is really, really lost, look adversity in the eye—and spit in it. Even when things are their WORST, these characters do not. Give. Up.


It’s these same characters that don’t leave me for a long, long time. Adam Wilde (Where She Went), Katniss and Peeta(Hunger Games) Lexi (Ripple), Tris and Four (Divergent), Max (Maximum Ride),... For me, this list goes on and on.

And as for my teens, those students who are the most passionate, the most tenacious, the most “heart-minded,” those are the students I typically remember long after they graduate.


Believe in yourself, believe in each other. Believe in your dreams.

It’s been my husband’s team’s motto for several years. It plasters their walls, their clothes. My husband even has Believe tattooed on his arm (He has a mermaid on the other one that Special K would LOVE) Not a game, not a practice goes by where they don’t finish a huddle with “Believe.” And all their friends get into it too, chanting “Believe” songs to pump up the crowd at games.

Believe in yourself, believe in each other. Believe in your dreams.

At some point, just about everyone contracts the virus of self-doubt. Sometimes we beast the sickness as quickly as it arrives, sometimes the self-doubt lingers for weeks. And I know we all have our own ways of battling bouts with self-doubt.

Me? I look to my teens.

And I’ll tell you what I believe. I believe my teens impact me as much as I do them, if not more so.

They inspire me to persevere in the ugliest face of adversity, to fight for what I believe in (or die trying), to never lose that unrelenting, unwavering, unmitigated passion.

Teen tenacity. It’s what keeps me going. And inspires me to persevere with dreams of my own.

So, how about YOU? What helps you battle the self-doubt bug? What inspires you to keep going?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

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, who told us about her reaction to watching The Hunger Games trailer, is...

Gabbi Calabrese!
Oh. My. Gosh. After crying and getting the chills from a combination of excitement and heartbreak, I eagerly showed my family and all of my friends just for another excuse to marvel at it's mind-blowing awesomeness. My friends were kind enough to ignore the tears, considering the ones that read the books had the same reaction. But when my dad asked me why in the world I was crying, I launched into a ten minute tirade about the emotional depth and the way the actors really capture the essence of their characters and the way I could practically feel the anxiety and shock and despair climbing out of the computer screen and crawling under my skin. My dad then laughed at me so I marched to my room, slammed the door yelling "YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND ANYTHING IMPORTANT!" and watched the trailer a few more times*.

*Read: A few more times than what could possibly be healthy for a teenage girl.

Because that may be the most wonderfully hyperbolic, and yet totally apt, response to a parent we've ever heard!

Gabbi, please send us an email to claim your prize!

Thanks to everyone who participated this week!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Tales from the Locker Room (and Other Stalk-Worthy Places)

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

And in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I decided to focus today's post on what kids are thankful for. Enjoy!

Despite popular opinion, teenagers ARE appreciative. There are teenagers that STILL say thank you. There are kids who do pick up their trash and push in their chair without prompting and reach out to help others. There are a lot of teens out there who are grateful human beings. So, I asked over seventy teens, ranging in age from 14-18, what they are really thankful for. I was a little worried they wouldn’t give me HONEST responses so I bullied (just kidding...sort of) them into telling me not what they think they SHOULD be thankful for, just genuine gut reaction.

Here’s what they had to say…

God, playing football this time of year, a place to live, parents who pay for everything, nieces, nephews, girlfriends, big family dinner, teachers, coaches, music, grandparents, boyfriends, education, health, having fun, being able to run track, iPod, house, cell phone, school, good looks, clothes, dog, a heart, shoes, food, a car…

The ones I heard the most:

1) Family (specifically—mom and dad)
2) Friends
3) Being alive

And some that brought on a few tears (okay A LOT)

• finally finding something to make me happy
• I am thankful for myself and all the positive changes in my life
• For overcoming my past
• That my dad did not get hit by that sniper
• A second chance in life with my brother
• For my dad and all he does to provide for me and my brother
• For being able to live my life how I want to

And because Thanksgiving always makes me think of Black Friday, I asked a bunch of teenagers what’s on their Christmas list. (red items were the most popular)

money, iPhone 4S, clothes, boots, rims for car, Nikon camera (I heard this one more than once), vacations, a boyfriend, cell phone, iPod Touch, food, games, a new guitar, GPS, flat screen, a white Christmas, four-wheelers, a car, ASUS, Alienware, coat, a truck, a puppy, laptop, hunting rifle, new radio, Sperrys, music, fuzzy socks, XBOX 360, weight bench, Toys R Us Gift Card, jewelry, car seat covers, smell goods

Okay, so maybe knowing what kids want for Christmas won’t exactly help you write your YA novel, but maybe you’ve got that niece or nephew to buy for. Or you have a tween and want to know how much debt you’ll incur as he or she gets older—LIKE ME.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t include the new word floating around the halls and in the classrooms.

Neck: what you say when someone does something stupid, sometimes accompanied by a slap on the neck.

Teen #1: When’s the soccer game, bro?

Teen #2: Um… yesterday. NECK.

Or in my classroom…

Student 1: Can you do number 10?

Student 2: She just did that one. NECK.

I hear it about fifty times a day.

My kids also make up words and word sandwiches almost as much as I do. In September, I introduced you to swagg. My kids still say it, except with new swagg. Things are now swaggalicious. And swaggtastic. And they draw pics on my board of Swagg-a-soarus Rex. Or call me their swagg mama.

Love it. Love them.


So, what are YOU thankful for? What’s on YOUR Christmas list? And teens, any new wordage floating around the halls at YOUR schools?
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