Thursday, May 31, 2012

Book-to-Movie Dreams

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:
Which YA novel would you be most excited to learn was being made into a film or TV show (that hasn't already been optioned)?
Our Answers

Alison: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray. This is the summary direct from Libba’s website:

Teen beauty queens. A "Lost"-like island. Mysteries and dangers. No access to email. And the spirit of fierce, feral competition that lives underground in girls, a savage brutality that can only be revealed by a journey into the heart of non-exfoliated darkness. Oh, the horror, the horror! Only funnier. With evening gowns. And a body count.

Think Lord of the Flies meets Miss Congeniality. I would LOVE to see this made into a movie.

Cristin: I think THE LUXE books by Anna Godbersen would make a fantastic television series, like Downton Abbey meets Gossip Girl. I'd watch the hell out of that.

Alexandra: I would die of happiness if someone made a movie out of SABRIEL by Garth Nix. I love dark and creepy stories, and Sabriel is such a dynamic main character. I think with the right cast and the right director it would be fantastic.

Katy: According to my good friend Google, JELLICOE ROAD, UNDER THE NEVER SKY, DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE, and THE SCORPIO RACES have all been optioned for film. Let's take a moment to celebrate, shall we? As far as I can tell, though, Franny Billingsley's CHIME and Kristin Cashore's GRACELING have not yet been optioned... Um, why not? I think they could both be awesome on the big screen. Their world building and their kickass heroines could be amazing if brought to life by the right creative teams. .

Jessica: I think Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard would make the most magical movie. Can you imagine if they shot in on location in Belize? Oh man, the gorgeous scenery...and I picture a totally killer soundtrack, too.

Cambria: I'm totally not up to date on what's been optioned or not, but I'd love to see Stolen by Lucy Christopher made into a movie. It's such an emotional internal journey that Gemma goes on, but that journey wouldn't have been so heartbreaking if it didn't take place in the Australian outback. Filming that story in the desert would be a cinematographer's wet dream. Like The English Patient but in Australia and with an actual storyline that doesn't put you to sleep. :) 

Copil: Un Lun Dun by China Meiville. There's a scene in Un Lun Dun where Deeba has to fight her way through a web of spider-legged windows. Each window looks out onto a different scene (by turns idyllic, horrific and mesmerizing). Great treasures are piled up in some views and many treasure hunters have found themselves drawn into a window only to have it, and the world behind its glass, swallowed whole by another window. And then another. Deeba's escape from this bizarre maze is brilliant, ethereal and very cinematic. I love the idea of giving Terry Gilliam a go at all of Un Lun Dun's improbables.

Karen: Daughter of Smoke and Bone. (Has it already been optioned? Prob has but I'm too lazy to research it, so that's my answer.)

Matt: Ship Breaker, by Paolo Bacigalupi, because that world is so awesome.

SaraGrave Mercy by R.L. LaFevers. Oh yes. Yes times a million. I could so see this as a series on HBO. Amazing scenery with the grittiness of something like Game of Thrones. (Though I'm reading Un Lun Dun now, at Copil's suggestion, and I'm liking his answer, too!)

Your turn!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Undercover Wednesday: THIS IS NOT A TEST by Courtney Summers

This Is Not a Test

This Is Not a Test by Courtney Summers, June 19, 2012 from St. Martin's Griffin 

From GoodreadsIt’s the end of the world. Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won’t stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self. To Sloane Price, that doesn’t sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she’s failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up. As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she’s forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually want to live. But as the days crawl by, the motivations for survival change in startling ways and soon the group’s fate is determined less and less by what’s happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life—and death—inside. When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?

Oh, this book. I don't consider myself to be a zombie girl, but simply put: I ADORED this book. Much like Sarah Dessen, Melina Marchetta, and Lauren Oliver, Courtney Summers can always be counted on to provide a captivating story. This Is Not a Test is full of twists and turns, flawed-but-awesome characters, and a teen voice that rang almost alarmingly authentic. While This Is Not a Test is not regular Courtney Summers contemporary fare, it is just as absorbing, just as unputdownable, as any of her other novels. Possibly more so.

This Is Not a Test begins while the world as we know it comes to an end. A zombie apocalypse is a brilliant backdrop against which to study human—specifically teen—behavior. People’s true colors shine vividly when resources are limited and their lives are at risk. Cortege High School becomes the perfect little microcosm to study the shifting motivations, constantly changing loyalties, and unexpected breaking points of the teens hunkered down inside. And surprisingly, the Dead lurking outside are not the biggest challenge the teens have to face; they torment and torture each other far more than the zombies ever do.  

Main character Sloane Price is another unpredictable element of This Is Not a Test. Her back story proves to be horrifying, but much like the protagonists from other novels written by Courtney Summers, she doesn’t do a whole lot to make herself likable. She's stubborn and self-centered, and she has a tendency to be sort of blind when it comes to the emotions of those around her. Still, Sloane’s so real, so very damaged and vulnerable, it’s hard not to root for her. She thinks the way teens think, and she says what teens—albeit wrecked teens—say. She’s depressed, but she’s smart and fair and loyal when it really counts. I wanted Sloane to pull it together so badly, both for herself and for the other teens stuck inside Cortege High with her—particularly Rhys.

Speaking of Rhys… I won’t give too much away, but awhile back I read a blurb about This Is Not a Test that called the book “sexy.” I had my doubts—this is a story about zombies, for crying out loud. But yeah, I admit it: This Is Not a Test IS sexy. And Rhys? Also sexy. Come to think of it, Trace and Cary (two more boys from Cortege’s group of six) aren’t too shabby either. And Grace, Sloane’s fellow female, is awesome in her own right. Even Harrison, who’s a bit of a cry baby, has his redeeming moments. What does all of this mean? Courtney Summers writes characters who rock. She also writes books that rock! 

I’ll close with one final thought: Read This Is Not a Test when it comes out next month. You will not be disappointed.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Topping the Summer TBR...

June is fast approaching, summer’s almost here, and school is almost out! And for many of our YA Confidential teens this means infinite relaxation and READING. What books are at the top of their summer TBR? Here’s what our teen SPIES and ANALYSTS had to say.

LEXIE: THE LOST GIRL by Sangu Mandanna. It just sounds so incredibly dark and beautiful and completely unique. Also, the author's a sweetie.

LAURA: INSURGENT! Bought it on release day, but haven't had a chance to read it yet. It's KILLING me!

ERICA: SUCH A RUSH by Jennifer Echols - She is one of my absolute favorite authors and I count down every year until her next book is released!


KATIE: The one book I can’t wait to read this summer is FABLEHAVEN: KEYS TO THE DEMON PRISON by Brandon Mull.

MADDIE: I'd have to say...GRASPING AT ETERNITY :) It just looks and sounds so great!

RANDI: I get most of my books by library so there's usually a lot of waiting involved. So I'm currently on hold for Insurgent, but I'll need to take a look at what's coming out. I'm also eagerly awaiting the release of J.K. Rowling's new book.


CHIHUAHUA ZERO: The one book that pops up in my mind is SOULBOUND by Heather Brewer.

RIV: I'm going to go ballistic if I don't get my hands on a copy of Kelly Creagh's ENSHADOWED very, very soon. (Also, in close second: THE IRON LEGENDS by Julie Kagawa. Only in second place because it's a set of novellas, two of which I've already read.)

NICK: It's got to be DIVERGENT! (I know, I still haven't read it.)

EMILY V: INHERITANCE by Christopher Paolini --It's been sitting around my house for months, but I haven't been able to read it yet.


Lissa's just a little excited about reading Courntey Summers upcoming release. ;) And our own Katy's reviewing it tomorrow! Make sure you check it out!

So, those are the books our teens are most anxiously awaiting. What’s topping YOUR summer TBR?!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Living the Military Life

Happy Memorial Day! Today’s a day on which many people will be grilling, going to the beach. Relaxing. It’s the unofficial beginning of summer. And hopefully a day on which Americans will pay their respects to the many men and women who have lost their lives while serving in the armed forces.

And since it’s Memorial Day, I decided to pay a little homage to the young, brave, and unsung heroes of the military—kids living the military life. After all, there are an estimated 1.9 million American children of military families. And since I live in a military town and teach students whose parent(s) are military, I thought I’d get some insight into the military life, the benefits, the hardships. And just how proud these kids are of their military families.

Oh, the places they’ve been…

Ohio, Maryland, Washington DC, Virginia, Connecticut, California, South Carolina, North Carolina, Kentucky, Texas, Okinawa. Some have experienced eight different moves. One of my military brats has been to twenty different states. And she’s only sixteen.

The pros and cons of moving around/living in different places?

Pros: Meeting new people, seeing the world, trying new things, creating unforgettable memories, learning to adapt to my environment, learning about different cultures and experiencing different lifestyles.

The experiences you get are a one in a lifetime chance. I thought trying different foods in Japan and learning the language was interesting. But since we were there, we took advantage of it and went to China.

Cons: having to move unexpectedly, having to make new friends, leaving comfort zone, family being a twenty-hour plane ride away.

The worst part is that when I do move, I leave all my old friends, which were so great, and go to a new place.

Have they had to leave any close friends/girlfriends/boyfriends behind? Do they still keep in touch with them?

Yes, through phone calls and emails.

My boyfriend is in Italy, but we are still together because we are close.

Skype and facebook helps us keep in touch.

Yes, I had to leave my very close friend and break up with my boyfriend of seven months. I do keep in touch with them because we’re so good of friends.

Yes, I met my best friend in Okinawa and we are much alike and we became practically sisters. We skype when we can.

Are any of their parents deployed right now? And how's that been for them? Crazy? Scary?

No, but my dad does deploy every other year and it’s very emotional. But I knew he would always come home. And picking him up at the squadron when he came home made me want to cry.

When my dad is deployed, my mom tries to keep us doing active things so it helps, especially when I was little.

It’s scary because we want him to be safe.

Do they feel more or less patriotic because one of their family members serves in the armed forces?

I feel more patriotic because being in the navy gives you a sense of being proud and honorable to your country.

More…you cherish the lives people sacrifice more, and you understand a lot what goes on in the wars more than other people.

I feel more patriotic because I am closer to the issues and I have a better insight on the issues.

I definitely think when you grow up as a military child, you have a little more respect and understand better than others. Like during the moment of silence, when people are rude, I get upset because you should give respect during that time.

As for wanting to go into the military themselves?

The results on this question were split—some said no, because it’s not for them, others said yes, because they want to serve their country too.

I want to go into the Navy. I always wanted to be a doctor so why not join the military where you can travel, get benefits, and know that you help someone every day.

Some final thoughts from real teens from real military families

My dad being in the Marine Corps is such an honorable job, but calling it a job would be a mistake because he loves being a Marine.

I’m very proud of my dad with what he’s done and been through.

We are all such supporters of the USMC, we decorate a tree at Christmas with red and gold Marine ornaments.

More people bash my father than thank him, but he will still tell you that he is proud of what he does. My daddy is truly my hero.

Cue heartfelt awwww.

Deployments are stressful, moving is tough, but over the years I’ve also observed an incredible resilience and adaptability in many of these teens as well as exceptional pride in their military parent and in their family. So, today, I not only want to thank and honor the men and women who put their lives on the line to protect our freedom, but also thank their families. We, at YA Confidential, salute you.

You can find more military teens sharing their stories here and here. And here.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Comment of the Week!

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

This week's winner, who told us which YA novel she's read recently that best nailed the "teen" voice:


Hate List by Jennifer Brown.  Valerie's confusion and hurt is very poignant, and her mistakes are ones that I could easily have made as a teenager even though they're life shattering.  Her voice is more mature, but I was a very mature teenager so it's a fit for me!

Excellent answer, Addyrae! This book is up next on my TBR and now I can't wait to read!

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

Friday, May 25, 2012

Ask-A-Dude: Grasping at Eternity Edition!

Hi, everyone!

Welcome back to another edition of Ask-a-Dude! Remember, you can ask your own questions using the submission form to the right!

Today, we have a Very Special Episode of Ask-a-Dude where I get trampled by a circus elephant and lapse into a coma. While convalescing at the Sisters of Perpetual Motion, my friends and family reminisce about all the stupid sh*t I've done in my life (like trying to steal a circus elephant). In this first clip, I get arrested for public indecency and learn the meaning of shame.

What's that?

We have an ACTUAL special thing going on today?

That's so cool! But I can still use the lazy Very Special Episode thing later, right?
This just in!

Karen Amanda Hooper's Grasping at Eternity hits the shelves!

Shelves? You kids today. They're cabinets with horizontal planks used by the ancients to store “legacy” books. We still use the expression “hit the shelves” to mean the book is available in bookstores.

I just. . .I can't. . .I don't. . .WOW.
Where was I?

Right! Karen's book!

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to your Friday Read!

Leave it to Maryah Woodsen to break the one rule that will screw up eternity: Never erase your memories.

Before entering this life, Maryah did the unthinkable--she erased. Now, at seventeen years old, she's clueless that her new adoptive family has known her for centuries, that they are perpetually reincarnated souls, and that they have supernatural abilities. Oh, and she's supposed to love (not despise) Nathan, the green-eyed daredevil who saved her life.

Nathan is convinced his family's plan to spark Maryah's memory is hopeless, but his love for her is undying. After spending (and remembering) so many lifetimes together, being around an empty version of his soulmate is heart shattering. He hates acting like a stalker, but has no choice because the evil outcast who murdered Maryah in their last lifetime is still after her.

While Maryah's hunter inches closer, she and Nathan make assumptions and hide secrets that rip them further apart. Maryah has to believe in the magic within her, Nathan must have faith in the power of their love, and both need to grasp onto the truth before they lose each other forever--and discover just how lonely eternity can be.

Soul mates and super powers? Yes, please!

Everyone here at YA Confidential is SOOOO excited for you, Special K! Congratulations!

Because I'm such a cool guy (but mostly because I called her at 3am and she was too drunk to read the caller ID), Karen gave me some behind-the-scenes Eternity info I'd like to share with you.

First of all, this is Karen's first self-published novel, something her publisher was very supportive of (her Sea Monster Memoirs Series will continue at Rhemelda Publishing). As Karen explained to me, she wanted to explore different publishing options and this story gave her that opportunity.

I also asked her where the inspiration for this book came from.

The idea hit me like a Mack truck several years ago while I was listening to Ella Fitzgerald's, Someone to Watch Over Me. It was the first novel I wrote. One hundred and fifty thousand words poured out of me within two months (I think five thousand were adverbs). I even traveled to Sedona with my best friend because I was so inspired. Years later, it's been revised (many times) and I finally felt it was good enough to share with the world.

Not convinced yet?! But wait, there's more! I'll throw in a free set of Ginsu Knives for every copy purchased here (and by Ginsu Knives I mean jackety-crap but I will totally think you have awesome taste in books!). You'll also find more info at Goodreads.

For additional details, more insider info and plenty of tickets to ride*, visit Karen's website!

In honor of Grasping at Eternity, today's Ask-a-Dude explores the concept of soul mates.

Q: Do guys believe in soul mates?

A: One of the earliest references to soul mates comes from Aristophanes, a Greek playwright and linguistic provocateur who was kinda like the ancient world's Eminem. Aristophanes (Ari to his friends) once called Socrates a “donkey d*ck sucking douche canoe” (although my ancient Greek may be a little off here).

Known for mesmerizing his opponents in free-style rap battles
Aristophanes also said people originally had four arms, four legs and one head with two faces. So just like my ex, Vanessa.

But one day Zeus looked down and was all WTF? and began to fear the power of the four-armed walking BO factories.

So Zeus, being a take-charge kind of guy, rounded up the eight-limbed freaks and sliced them in two, condemning each half to a lifetime of searching for its complementary other.

Lesson? Always wear deodorant around Zeus. Or just bring this guy with you.

The concept is pretty romantic. Somewhere, out there, your counterpart is walking around wondering “Why do I only have two in what is obviously a four piece set of silver Tiffany bangles?” Find your soul mate, bring the two halves into harmony and live happily ever after. Who wouldn't be down with that?

Midi-chlorians, that's who.

Midi-chlorians are fantastical creatures that exist within all great ideas for the sole purpose of ROBBING ALL THE F*CKING MAGIC FROM THEM!

After years of food accumulation, his beard is
basically a midi-chlorian breeding ground
In the case of the soul mate idea, midi-chlorians spring to life in the few moments after a romantic idea takes root in the male brain. They're almost like the male defense mechanism against any scenario that might lead to monogamy.

Guys only like the soul mate concept for as long as the three neurons in the male brain dedicated to romance are firing (about ten seconds). During that time, a male believes there is someone out there he is meant to be with.

But suddenly his brain floods with midi-chlorians. The wholly enchanting and emotionally intoxicating idea of being with someone who makes him more than he could be on his own, gives way to a completely irrational fear that his soul mate is trying to eat him. At this point, his brain shunts all resources to the dominant “I'm freaking out!” part of his brain and explains why a guy will start out being all, “Whoa, I feel like we're complimentary water colors in a Thomas Kinkade painting,” and then ten seconds later will ask, “Do you think your sister is down for a threeway?”

Midi-chlorians sabotage the soul mate concept because sometimes, like in the Star Wars saga, you have too much good, happy, wonderful stuff going on and you just have to piss on it so you can sell more Happy Meals and rule THE GODDAMN TOY AISLE AT TARGET! I mean, honestly, Mr. Lucas!

Woops, went off the rails, there. Sorry about that. I'm back.

I think guys want to believe in soul mates but I also think we're afraid to accept a related truth: just because she's your soul mate doesn't mean the relationship won't be hard work.

Women don't seem to be as concerned with this. Perhaps they understand it's a small price to pay for the potential return.

Either that or they simply live in a world that isn't infected with midi-chlorians. I bet there's no Jar-Jar, either *grumble*.

Super powers, though. That we believe in.

Congratulations, Karen!!!!!!

*I have no effing clue why I said this.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Authentic Teen Voice

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:
Which YA novel you've read recently do you think best nailed the "teen" voice?

Our Answers

Karen: I loved FRACTURE by Megan Miranda. I tend to like the teen voices that sound more mature because that's how I was as a teen. (I didn't get immature until my twenties. ;)

Sara: Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally. Jordan Woods, the MC, has a superb teenage voice. Which, I think, says a lot, considering she’s the quarterback for her high school’s football team, a position not many teenage girls currently fill. So, written by any other author, she may have felt inauthentic. But Miranda gave her a very real teen perspective that added another level to the believability of her story.

Alison: This question was challenging for me because most of the books I’ve read lately have a strong “teen” voice, IMHO. But I guess one that stands out is Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler. I mean, I know not all teens speak in page long paragraphs or get obsessive about screenings of classic B-movies, but I really felt like I was in a teenager’s head while I was reading. Min was real, authentic, and totally relatable. And her story made me want to castrate every jerk (I’m being very nice here) who’s ever broken my heart.

Katy: I just finished reading an ARC of THIS IS NOT A TEST by Courtney Summers (available next month) and holy crap, was it amazing. The story is set against a zombie apocalypse, but somehow that didn't take anything away from its realism. The teen voice was absolute perfection. Gritty and unflinching and raw, so real I found myself rereading passages to study their awesomeness. The characters, six kids battling zombies and each other, had a way of saying exactly what needed to be said at exactly the right moment, with exactly the right amount of emotion-laced slang. Courtney Summers rocks at capturing the teen voice in all of her novels, but THIS IS NOT A TEST is, for me, is her best book to date.

Jessica: I loved the voice in Welcome Caller, This Is Chloe by Shelley Coriell. Chloe's voice was so authentic teen and so awesomely funny. She felt like such a real girl to me.

Cambria: This one's tough...but I think Amy Reed nailed five, yes, FIVE teen voices in her book Clean. It's Breakfast Club meets the rehab center and all the characters have their own identifiable quirks that make them seem so authentically troubled and teen. 

Copil: Lexapros and Cons by Aaron Karo. MC Chuck Taylor sounded just as insecure, awkward and ill-at-ease as I remember feeling in high school. Hmmm, now that I think about it, Karo's book pretty accurately reflects the middle-aged-man voice as well.

Matt: I'm reading Passenger, by Andrew Smith, right now, and as usual, Jack is as alive and twisted and true as any teenage boy I've ever known.

Your turn!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The making of the GRASPING AT ETERNITY cover

This Friday, the 25th of May, our wonderful operative Karen Hooper is releasing her YA paranormal romance GRASPING AT ETERNITY into the world.

You may or may not know, but I designed the cover. So, Karen's journey with this novel (her second published novel, her first self-published novel) has been a little nerve-wracking for me, too, because covers really can make or break a novel.

In the spirit of the GRASPING AT ETERNITY release, I decided to do a "behind the scenes" post on how I made this cover.

We didn't want to use a stock photograph because of how many covers seem to share images these days, so Karen asked a friend of hers to model for pictures, and ended up sending me the picture on the left. Having a good picture to work with is so important--my job would have been MUCH harder if Karen hadn't sent me such a pretty photo in the first place.

On the right is the picture after I got done with it. The list of things I did is long, even if they are subtle (you don't want a picture to LOOK like it's been through the Photoshop ringer), so I won't go into great detail. But mostly I wanted the colors to really pop so I changed the lighting. I also added some more flower petals, an extra peacock feather, brightened her hair, and made her features stand out a little more.

After that it was time to start messing with fonts and word placement. Immediately I envisioned the title at the bottom, because that's where there was most space for it. I also thought some kind of swirl design would look cool incorporated onto the cover, so I designed the one you see below by using pieces of decorative fonts and splicing them together.

I didn't feel that this first version looked unique enough, and there were several elements that Karen wanted incorporated on the cover. The most difficult one was the infinity symbol, which I moved around dozens of times, making it a shadow, making it a mask, laying it behind the title, etc., until I realized that it would look coolest as part of the lettering itself. I also changed the swirl design to frame the title, rather than just sitting awkwardly behind it. Karen also wanted a clock to be incorporated somehow, and a pair of eyes--both of which are thematically important in GRASPING AT ETERNITY. The eyes framed by the infinity symbol are actually mine. ;)

This was the original finished cover.

Finally I ended up with the image you see above. We both loved it. For several weeks we thought we were done, we announced the cover and showed it to the world, and I was honestly overwhelmed by how many people liked it.

But. The letters were too thin to be seen in a thumbnail. And on Amazon, that's really important. So I went back to the drawing board with the title. I used the same font, but I plumped it up (simply bolding it wasn't enough) and resized the swirlies so the letters could be their biggest. I also had to reattach the infinity symbol to the end of the Y.

I had so much fun doing this cover, and I'm so thankful that Karen had faith in my skill enough to ask me! I really can't wait for the next one, when I'll actually have the opportunity to be present at the photoshoot. Karen already has a vision for the design and color scheme. ;)

Don't forget! This FRIDAY is the release date for GRASPING AT ETERNITY.
Add it on Goodreads HERE.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Want Your First Page Critiqued? By Teens?!

Okay, so, who doesn't want their target audience's feedback on their book? Every month, we offer that chance!

Send the first page of your YA novel to and one submitter will be randomly chosen to have their page critiqued on the blog by our teen spies! They'll reveal what they liked, what they didn't, and whether or not they'd keep reading! 

Deadline for page submission: May 29!

If you've submitted in previous months, but haven't been selected, feel free to submit again!

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Tribute to Adam Yauch, AKA MCA, The Beastie Boys, and Youth

First, this:

Even if you're not into Coldplay, you've got to admit that's a moving tribute to one of the greats.

Anyway, I know this is a YA blog, and I know this is my first post, but I promise to tie it all together by the end.

In case you hadn't heard, the world lost an incredible artist on May 4th, 2012. Adam Yauch was best known as MCA, and was one of the visionaries who created one of history's most popular bands: The Beastie Boys. Many know them as wild, partying, misogynisitc, drug-addled morons, but Adam in particular was also a voice for freedom, and it was his passion for truth and human rights that led the Beasties to create the Tibet Freedom Concert, and he was also heavily involved in the Tibetan freedom movement.

Before I get all personal up in this post, I want to share some of MCA's most famous and admirable lyrics. To get a better idea of the man:

I've got more rhymes than I've got grey hairs,
and that's a lot because I've got my share.  
(self-deprecation is something I always admire)

I give thanks for this world as a place to learn
and for this human body that I'm glad to've earned
(he was a Buddhist)

Your knees start shakin
 and your fingers pop
 like a pinch to the neck from Mr Spock
(pop-culture references were a B-Boys staple)

So like a pimp I'm pimpin,
I got a boat to eat shrimp in.
Nothing wrong with my leg
 I'm just B-boy limpin
(style, and knowledge of self, is important
 even for white Jewish rappers)

"Now my name is M.C.A. - I've got a license to kill
I think you know what time it is - it's time to get ill
Now what do we have here - an outlaw and his beer
I run this land, you understand - I make myself clear."
We stepped into the wind - he had a gun, I had a grin
You think this story's over but it's ready to begin
(as writers, surely we all recognize great storytelling)

I'm as cool as a cucumber
in a bowl of hot sauce
(who's hungry?)

Droppin science like Galileo dropped the orange

I want to say a little something that's long overdue
the disrespect to women has got to be through
to all the mothers and the sisters and the wives and friends
I want to offer my love and respect to the end.
(as the middle son, between two sisters,
raised by the most amazing woman who ever lived,
I love this line so much.
It's probably my favorite lyric ever written.

But perhaps this post isn't so much about Adam, as it is about me. The first album I ever bought with my own money was Bob Marley and the Wailers, Legend, which I purchased with change, on cassette tape. But the first album I fell in love with, because my big sister's friend who lived up the street owned it, was Licensed to Ill, by the Beastie Boys.

that's me on the left, not rocking out to the B-Boys, but it probably looked like this when I did
Licensed to Ill dropped in 1986. It was a time of yuppies, it was a time of huge bangs, it was a time when MTV still played music videos, and a time when kids in the hood could still hang. That rhyme was on purpose, but I'm serious. I was in fourth or fifth grade at the time, attending Catholic school on Queen Anne Hill just north of Downtown Seattle. We actually walked to school, back then, my sisters and I. It wasn't uphill both ways, and there was never snow, but I promise my parents seriously did actually let us walk to school.

It was like 8 blocks.

But that's not the point. The point is that I discovered this band that made me feel like everything I was was okay. A lonely, horny, pre-teen boy who missed his missing dad. The only male in a house full of women who loved his mom and sisters but needed a guy to show him how to swing the bat. An angry, rebellious kid who didn't want to hear a single damn directive from his aunts an uncles when his mom died that next summer.

I'm not saying the Beastie Boys had all the answers, because they didn't, and they never could, but music that speaks to you, especially when you're young, is music that makes it okay to be alive and in pain at the same time. Artists who can convey the dichotomy of life while speaking true, are artists whose message you will always remember.

Most of the B-Boys early stuff was silly. It was about getting high, macking on girls, and about eating White Castle, but the groove was there, and the honesty was there, and they touched me in such a way as a boy that I kept coming back, and more importantly they turned me on to conscious hip-hop like A Tribe Called Quest, Jeru da Damaja, and KRS-ONE. They exposed me, as White Jewish Rappers, to a world I would have never otherwise discovered, and I owe them a lot of thanks for that.

me and my peeps in like 1989, when we finally had a License to Chill
For now, I urge you to watch Fight for your Right to Party (Revisited), starring Frodo Baggins as the King Ad-Rock, Officer Michaels, from Superbad, as Mike D, and Kenny Powers, from Eastbound and Down, as the eponymous, MCA AKA Adam Youch, AKA Nathaniel Hornblower. It also has cameos from Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci, Will Farrell, Rashida Jones, Rainn Wilson, Ted Danson, Jason Schwartzmann, Amy Poehler, Chloƫ Sevigny, Will Arnett, Adam Scott, Steve Buscemi, John C. Reilly, and Jack Black.

Adam Yauch directed this video, under the pseudonym Nathaniel Hornblower, as he did many of the early Beastie Boys videos, and it was probably the last great thing he did before the cells of his own body overtook him (WARNING PG-13 for language):

Also, if they weren't a division rival, I might have to become a Mets fan.

Rest in peace, Adam. May the Buddha forever hold you against the girth of his beer-muscle, and breath upon your face the peace of everlasting Nirvana. Your music, and your message, will always be missed by this B-Boy.

Now, those of you who are old like me - what bands spoke to you when you were young and knew everything? Those of you who are still young - what are the bands that touch your lives in ways that you will never forget?

For my eldest daughter, who's 16, it's My Chemical Romance.

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