Teen Librarian Toolbox
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Take 5: My Favorite Friendships

I’m often struck by how beautifully written friendships are in YA. In fact, they are often much more important and detailed than any other personal relationships – dating or family. I suppose it makes sense, since the teen years are a time when we practice separating from our family and are only just learning how to date, that our friendships wold take on primary importance.

Far and away my favorite YA friendship is the one between (capital letters) Will Grayson and Tiny Cooper in John Green and David Levithan’s co-authored Will Grayson, Will Grayson. It is beautiful and sincere and touching as well as hilarious and full of mischief. Will and Tiny are in high school but have been best friends since elementary. It’s hard to explain what is so magical about this relationship. I can only sum it up by saying “Everyone should have a friend like Tiny Cooper.” It’s funny to me that this relationship is almost exclusively portrayed in the John Green written parts of the novel, since I think of David Levithan as being the master of the teenage friendship. Not that John Green is a slacker. Anyway, read it, will you please? Then come back and tell me your favorite part.


Speaking of David Levithan, I can’t leave out his amazing Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares. Dash, while described by everyone in the book who meets him as being ‘snarly,’ has a good number of close friends whose fondness for him bely his outward appearance. My favorite of his friendships is with his long-term friend Boomer. Yes, that’s a nickname, but it’s also a description of his personality. Boomer is described as being like a somewhat exciteable retriever. Always bouncing all over the place, and not quite the sharpest knife in the drawer. I love how, even though their paths have diverged widely since they became friends (to call Dash an intellectual would be putting it mildly) Dash regards his friend with the utmost warmth and respect. And you can tell that Boomer feels this deeply, though he only plays a minor role in the novel.

Hidden within the comedic genius of Sarah Rees Brennan’s trope-twisting gothic mystery, Unspoken, is one of the most beautiful, loving girl friendships I’ve ever read. Kami and Angela are almost polar opposites, drawn together by their outsider status, but kept together by their solid love and affection (and their willingness to not just put up with, but embrace, each others idiosyncrasies.) Even though it’s Jared with whom Kami has had a psychic bond since infancy, it’s Angela I can’t imagine her without. I’d expect nothing less from Brennan, however, who is a world-class champion of girl friendships.

Someone Like You may very well have been the first YA novel I read after my move from the elementary library to middle school. I know it was definitely one of the first, and it is the only one I remember from my first whirlwind year learning to cope with the broad span of readers in middle school. My students were somewhat more life savvy than I had been at that age, and were very ready for books involving teenage pregnancy. This is one of the best out there, even after all this time I look to it to appeal to some of my most dedicated non-readers, looking for a story that seems real to them. My favorite thing about it is that it is told through the lens of the friendship between pregnant Scarlett and her BFF Haley, who stands by her side throughout the most difficult experience of either of their young lives.

I hesitate a little to claim that the relationship between narrator Austin Szerba and his best friend Robby Brees is a simple friendship. If you’ve read the book, in Austin’s own words, “You know what I mean.” But, fundamentally, beneath everything else, there is the solid love and affection of friendship that Austin and Robby have for each other. Whether they are suffering the abuse of the brainless jocks who beat them up in the alley they refer to as Grasshopper Jungle, sharing smokes while they contemplate the disastrous lives of the adults they know, or defending the world from an invasion of six foot tall praying mantises, Robby and Austin depend on one another in a beautiful and compelling way.

I highly recommend each of these books for their individual merit, although I think probably only Dash & Lily is what I would refer to as an ‘almost everybody’ book. Each, however, is a beautiful example of the strong emphasis YA places on friendship.

Malinda Lo on Two Boys Kissing (coming in the fall from David Levithan)

I just stumbled across this excellent post from Malinda Lo and wanted to make sure everyone reads it.  The most interesting part to me was in the comments where she discusses how few GLBTQ titles are actually being published.  Read the post here: http://www.malindalo.com/2013/03/on-two-boys-kissing/

Coming in the fall

What do you think of the cover for David Levthan’s new book?  What do you think of Malinda Lo’s post?  Talk with us in the comments.
More on Sex and Sexuality on TLT:  

My Emotional Soundtrack: What Keeps Me Sane

So the other day I talked about things that I just couldn’t go back to, even if I wanted to (if you missed it, go here).  Today, I thought that I’d share things that give me comfort.  It’s a rocky place out there, and while I consider myself a stable person, there are things that can rock you to your core- things that happen with your teens/tween, within your professional life, within your personal life, or within the world in general.  We, as teen advocates, should be embodying and modeling ways that are at least generally healthy ways to cope with whatever life throws at us, because you never know who’s watching.  We can (and do) break down in private, but we can’t exactly go screaming through the stacks to let off steam, as much as we would like to.  Someone, unfortunately, is bound to notice, whether it’s our teens, our patrons, or our boss.

So, I thought I’d share what keeps me as sane as I can be [which I’ve been told is up for doubt some days :) ], and please share yours in the comments below.  I think we’d all like to learn different ways to keep on keepin’ on.


Family and friends.  Even if they are over half a world away, and we only connect via social media, text or email, I can send out something and get something back within seconds to minutes.  I have a very expanded definition of family, very different than what most people (and probably those in my “family” would consider) but these are the people that if something happened, I know that they’d drop everything to get to me- and I would drop everything to get to them.  I can contact them with anything and no matter how trivial, or how silly, we can laugh or cry or share and it’ll be OK.  And I have been extremely blessed in that I have found people where ever I have landed throughout my life and have been able to keep adding to my family.

Music.  I really cannot live without music, and I am as bad as my tweens and teens with it- needs to be on constantly.  I listen to just about anything (save for most rap- that’s a whole different discussion), and you can rarely find me without my player.  I name them.  The current one is named Lilith after the Lilith Fair concert series, an ipod Touch, and has a speaker set in my office and has a port in my car.  Plato is quoted as saying, “Music is a moral law.  It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.”  I prefer Aldous Huxley, “After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”  


Tea.  I’m not sure how I grew up with sweet tea in the middle of Illinois, but we always had sweet tea in the house.  I got out of the habit in college, but after I married That Guy, I got back into iced sweet tea, although the sugar got replaced with substitutes.  Now, I’ve gotten into hot teas at work and at bedtime, and oh, man, it is a comfort.  I haven’t gotten the hang of the spiced teas or fruit teas yet (always willing to try) and haven’t been brave enough to try a chai (they seem so expensive), but I’m addicted to black teas that have vanilla caramel or a good English Breakfast tea.  I even got a special cup from my last Disney trip that has Alice and the Mad Hatter having a tea party that I can microwave that has a sippy lid, instead of having to balance an open cup around my crazy kids.  Ah, simple joys.


Fluffy things.  I’ve always been lucky in my library career in that I’ve always had someplace with storage that was mine and mine alone, and I know enough about library worlds to know that my situation isn’t always the norm.  I’ve always been able to have something fluffy to take out to play with the kids, whether it’s a bear or a bunny dressed in different outfits (did you know that those Build-a-Bear animals fit in about size 3-6 month baby clothes?).  And as my space has expanded, so too has my collection of things, as you can see above.  I’ve gone from one teddy bear that was for baby story times to a bear and a bunny (who have been renamed for co-workers by the kids), a chef, two sock monkeys (a pirate and a ninja), a frog, a Dalek, and a Beaker, and there are a basket of Beanie Babies in the closet waiting for the appropriate time.  However, the toys aren’t just for the kids- they’re for me too.  They all mean something, and at times, I need the hugs that they’ve stored up from the kids who have dressed them and babysat them.

Books.  Always, constant, faithful companions are books.  My house is full of them, my work is full of them, and my life is full of them   If they weren’t, I am definitely in the wrong job. When I want comfort, I want the familiar, and I want familiar authors- ones that I know I like and will transport me away for a while.  I don’t want to take a chance on a book and be disappointed.  I take off the librarian and blogger hat, and I put on the consumer/patron hat, and read what makes me feel safe.  And yes, I know there are bloggers and librarians alike out there probably pulling hair out at the thought of using reading as an escape, but sometimes, for me, it is.  

My favorite YA and Adult authors are ones that I know will deliver me to other places and settings, give me a good story, and not jar me with inconsistencies.  I turn to the techno worlds of Cory Doctorow, to the realities Judy Blume (heaven help me if Summer Sisters or Superfudge goes out of print).  I go to the worlds of Anita Blake and Merry Gentry by Laurel K. Hamilton, and Rachel Morgan and Madison Avery from Kim Harrison.  I look for Maureen Johnson, David Levithan, John Green, Rachel Cohn, Jillian Larkin’s Flapper series and Anne Godberson’s Luxe series (all considered teen/young adult materials).  I look for Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Norville series, or Patricia Brigg and Tanya Huff, or Eric Jerome Dickey (all considered adult materials).  I look for Mercedes Lackey (an author that can fall either teen or adult, depending on the reader).

So, those are my comforts.  What are your comfort reads, your comfort things?  Share in the comments below.
 

2012 Printz Award Winner John Corey Whaley remembers . . .

In honor of the anniversary of 9/11, we are re-running a piece written by the 2012 Printz Award Winner John Corey Whaley on the book Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan.  This piece originally appeared on April 18, 2012 as part of our Why YA? series.

I’ll make a confession: I read YA books. You know what else I read? I read newspaper articles, blogposts, essays, poetry, and . . . . wait for it . . . . adult literary fiction. It’s possible to read them all and experience them all respectively. But, to be quite honest, YA books have the most special place in my heart. They are the titles I remember instantly when asked “What’s your favorite book?” YA books are the ones we keep with us for years and years, lifetimes even.


So I was asked to write about a YA book that means something to me, but there are so many that I’ve had a hard time choosing just one. I could go with the literary masterpiece To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, which would most assuredly be classified as YA were it to be newly published today. Or, I could choose a more recent work like Sherman Alexie’s heartfelt, painful, and gorgeous The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian. What about Frank Portman’s hilarious King Dork or Stephen Chbosky’s ode to teenage sexual/emotional confusion and angst, The Perks of Being a Wallflower? I could go on and on about these titles and why they transcend the adult-teenager literary divide. But, some of these I read as a teenager and I thought, to play fair, I’d discuss a YA book that I discovered as an adult.

In the few months prior to the release of my own YA book, I decided to read several titles that I’d had on my radar for years. The one that has stuck with me most from that period of time (and will always stick with me) was David Leviathan’s Love is the Higher Law. This beautiful sincere novel told from the multiple perspectives of New York City teenagers in the wake of the September 11th attacks meant more to me than most books I’ve ever read in my life. I think there are several reasons why this is true and why I would never be ashamed to be caught reading this title in a public place (thank you, Mr. Stein).

One reason is the beauty and courage with which Levithan approaches his characters as they experience, together and respectively, a rapidly changing world in which they suddenly learn they have very little control. Their conversations, relationships, and emotions (and lack there of, sometimes) spoke to me on a personal level.

You see, I was seventeen on September 11, 2001. Mind you, I was all the way down in Louisiana, far away from the actual events of the day, but I felt it just as I think most of us did. I felt a physical change in the world that I had no idea how to respond to mentally or emotionally. When I read this book, ten years later, I realized how I wasn’t alone with that feeling as a seventeen year old. I read about Claire, Peter, and Jasper and how they were just as lost as I was, as a lot of us were, I think.

Levithan found a way to capture something that I think, as a writer of any genre, is nearly impossible. He captured perfectly that universal haunting feeling that one gets when he or she realizes that nothing in the world makes a damn bit of sense anymore. And he did this in a YA book. Go figure.

Speaking of “universal experiences,” I want to end by saying this: we were all teenagers. It’s one of the very few things that every single adult on this planet has in common. We have different faiths, different careers, different types of families, different geographic locations, and even different eating habits. But one thing we all have is the memory of being a teenager. We remember how it felt, how awesome it was sometimes and how much it sucked other times. We remember discovering things for ourselves and making mistakes we knew better than to make in the first place. We all share so few things, but being a teenager and knowing what it means to be one is a damn important one. I write YA books because I choose to tell stories about growing up and about being a teenager and about discovering the world and the way its people work. I do this not because I am too dumb to write adult books (in fact, I’m working on one now), but because teenagers are just us a few years ago. They’re just waiting to grow up and become more bruised and cynical by the ways of the world. I write YA because teenagers read with open eyes and, you know what? Maybe more adults should do the same. Now, excuse me while I go proudly wave my YA books in public places.

John Corey Whaley is the 2012 Michael L. Printz and William C. Morris Award winner for his debut novel, Where Things Come Back. He was also named a 2011 5 Under 35 Author by the National Book Foundation. Find out more at his webpage and follow him on Twitter (@corey_whaley). Where Things Comes Back is the moving tale of Cullen Witter and his life in a small town with a missing brother, a missionary who is lost in other ways, and the strange reappearance of the extinct Lazarus Woodpecker. “Complex but truly extraordinary, tinged with melancholy and regret, comedy and absurdity, this novel finds wonder in the ordinary and emerges as ultimately hopeful. It’s about a lot more than what Cullen calls, “that damn bird.” It’s about the dream of second chances.” – from Goodreads.com “This extraordinary tale from a rare literary voice finds wonder in the ordinary and illuminates the hope of second chances.” – Amazon.com

Body Image and Every Day by David Levithan, a discussion by Christie Gibrich

Recently, I had one of those moments where I am talking about a book that I really loved and the person I am talking to, in this case fellow blogger Christie Gibrich, says “yes, but . . .”  So I asked her to write about her “Yes, But” because it is an issue that I myself even referenced last week in my review of Butter by Erin Jade Lange.  I’ll let her tell you all about it.
A little background: Every Day is the story of a person known only as A who wakes up every day in a different body.  For 24 hours A lives the life of this person.
My co-blogger, Karen, wrote a review of Every Day by David Levithan in June (find it here).  I fully admit that I am a rabid fan of David Levithan- I had the pleasure of meeting him at a conference after his Boy Meets Boy came out, and I went into full fangirl worship mode and we talked for a good thirty minutes about his work and how much I loved it, and how much my teens loved that he was writing such realistic characters for teens- and for GLBT teens.  So when I got ahold of an e-ARC of Every Day, I stayed up through the night to read it.  And I was loving it.

Until I hit Day 6025.


Day 6025 is approximately 7/8ths of the way through the book.  “A” has already been a variety of teens:  twin linebackers, girls, gays, drug addicts, alcoholics, etc., and has handled those with a grace and understanding that others have pointed out could be more than a teen voice.  Then he becomes Finn, and that understanding goes out the window.  Finn is an obese teen, by Levithan’s own description “at least 300 pounds” wearing “an XXXL buttondown and some size 46 jeans” and when “A” wakes up in Finn’s body, the prejudice and loathing for his host starts from the moment he opens his eyes, and never goes away. 

“Finn Taylor has retreated from most of the world; his size comes from negligence and laziness, a carelessness that would be pathological if it had any meticulousness to it.  While I’m sure if I access deep enough I will find some well of humanity, all I can see on the surface is the emotional equivalent of a burp.”

“A” never bothers to see what’s beneath- most obese teens are not like this by choice.  Unlike society’s belief that if you just walk it off or eat less, or that it’s because schools are cutting physical education, or that it’s just a choice, there’s usually deep psychological issues going on- depression, emotional abuse, suicidal impulses being turned inward.  Or medical issues that are not being treated properly, because of lack of health care or parents not being advocates for their “fat/lazy” child.  If it was as simple as just eating right, a teen could turn it around.

“The chairs are wobbly underneath me at the bookstore’s café.  I decide to walk the aisles instead, but they’re too narrow, and I keep knocking things off the shelves.”*

Really?  REALLY?!?!  We need to have an image of this teen as GODZILLA or THE THING going through a public bookstore destroying things because he’s 300 pounds?!?!?  There’s a difference between hyperbole for a point and encouraging the stereotypical mental image that society has for those who are overweight.  Unless the chairs were antique wicker chairs, or the aisles didn’t meet minimum ADA requirements, this wouldn’t happen to a person of Finn’s description, and the twin linebackers would have had similar problems.  Even then, if “A” bothered to access Finn’s memories like he did with other hosts to work in their worlds, he would have figured out how to work within his body instead of joining the chorus of disgust.

“If I were in a different body, this would be the time I would lean down and kiss her.  If I were in a different body, that kiss could transform the night from off to on.  If I were in a different body, she would see me inside.  She would see what she wanted to see.”


“A” doesn’t bother to relate to Finn.  He can’t get through the day fast enough; Rhiannon can’t be bothered to look beyond the surface to see “A” within Finn’s body.  If he was only someone else, then things would be different and he could change everything … but because he can’t be bothered to work with what he was dealt, or be bothered to work around his own personal prejudice, the date and the time with Rhiannon was a waste.  This furthermore enforces the belief that if you are overweight or obese or fat, you’re unworthy of love- because no one will ever be able to see the “real” you.

I was so let down by this chapter in Every Day.  Up to that point I was loving the book, and how “A” was flipping from character to character.  The fact that Levithan, who writes so well for teens, wrote this whole chapter, left me in compete disbelief.  I know other YA librarians/readers who are split- some didn’t catch it, while others reacted the same way I did.  It’s bad enough that we have the media shoving preconceived notions of how we’re supposed to look, how we’re supposed to act, and how we’re supposed to dress down our throats every day.  Being told that having a certain amount of body mass makes us unworthy of love is unacceptable.
Have you read Every Day – what do you think?  What ya titles do you think handle the issue of body image well?
*Editor’s note: I (Karen) recently read Skinny – which I will review soon – about another morbidly obese teenager, in this case a female, and she undergoes weight loss surgery after the chair she is sitting on stage breaks beneath her. And in Butter, reviewed last week, our main character has specially made school furniture to accomodate his size. In both of these titles, I thought the issue of weight and the emotions that go with it were handled well.

Book Review: Every Day by David Levithan

It’s not every day that you get to read a book that can be described as stunningly brilliant, but Every Day by David Levithan is, in fact, that book.

“We all contain mystery, especially when seen from the inside.” (David Levithan)

Meet A.  Every day A wakes up in a new body and for 24 hours lives that person’s life.  A does not know why and has no control over it.  It is simply the way things are for A.  It doesn’t matter if the body is male or female, they just have to be around the same age and in the same geographic area.

The rules A has developed to cope are simple:
Don’t get noticed
Don’t make any decisions/changes that would affect this life
Don’t get attached

Things suddenly change for A when one day, in the body of Justin, A falls in love with Rhiannon.

“And it’s there, just out of my reach. A sound waiting to be a word. She is so lost in her sadness that she has no idea how visible it is. I think I understand her – for a moment I presume to understand her – but then, from within this sadness, she surprises me with a brief flash of determination. Bravery, even.” (David Levithan)

Every day, each day as a new person, A tries to find a way to get back to Rhiannon.  A, who once had no reason, has found a reason.

Every Day by David Levithan is a brilliant concept for a book.  And in true Levithan style, it oozes with raw emotional power and, quite simply stated, some beautifully phrased insights.  A spends time in so many different people that he (or she) had developed a very mature, sophisticated insight into the human condition.  Drug addicts, abuse victims, religious zealots, vain cheerleaders and obese, awkward boys – A has embodied them all and Levithan finds a unique way here to tell their story and give them voice.  And because this is Levithan, he finds a unique way to get the reader thinking about things like gender identity and sexuality.

To me, the most beautiful part of this story was the fact that no matter what body A inhabited, Rhiannon could always tell it was him/her walking towards her because the soul was reflected in the eyes.  That doesn’t mean she didn’t have problems sometimes getting past the packaging, because she sometimes most definitely did – and this is where we learn so much about the human condition.  Our hearts may be willing, but sometimes even the deepest of loves can not get past our social conditioning.  At no time is this point more poignant then when A wakes up on the morning of their first official date in the body of an obese boy.  You heart will shatter into a million little pieces, but your head will also hang in shame because we all know that Levithan is speaking tremendous truth.

This is more than just a beautiful love story – and beautiful it truly is – there is also a bit of danger and intrigue as one of the bodies, Nathan, seems to have some recall that something happened and proclaims that he was possessed by the devil.  This path leads to the revelation that A may not be alone and may, in fact, be able to choose to inhabit one body for a long period of time.  The question is, although A may be able to take over a person’s body, is it the right thing to do?  It is this revelation, and the face of evil that seems to deliver it, that forces A to make some important choices.

In the end, there are no real answers as to the how and why of A and this bizarre existence, but that is irrelevant to our story.  No, this is a stunningly brilliant look at the human condition, an aching portrait on the meaning of true love, and a genuine reflection on the concepts of self, perception, identity and more.  This is an award winning book waiting to stand at the podium and collect its awards.  This is the book we read about and talk about and pretend that, of course, we would never be like that . . . and then cringe as we remember the times that we were.

If I have any hesitations regarding this book, it would only be around the concept of voice.  A, our main character, has a very wise, sophisticated voice and I do question how much teens will see themselves reflected in it.  And yet, clearly, A has lived a 1,000 lives and gained such tremendous wisdom that it would be difficult for him/her to fall into the regular trappings of adolescence.  This book, more than any other, made me reflect on the criticisms I often hear surrounding John Green and the voice of his characters.  In the end, I decided it makes sense for the character and the breadth of his/her experiences and chose to embrace the journey.  Like Mr. Toad’s, it’s a wild ride.

There is an air of pathos that hangs over this love story in a vein similar to The Time Traveler’s Wife, which I deeply love.  Buy it, read it, talk about it.  It is reach into your chest and pull your heart out brilliant.  5 out of 5 stars.

“Honesty, I’m just trying to live day by day.”
Every Day by David Levithan will be published on August 28th by Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Top 10 Tuesday: LGBTQ Pride Month and Steph’s Top Ten LGBT YA Picks!

So it’s June, already.  Summer Reading is in full swing for many public libraries and for your lucky, lucky school librarians, you should be headed toward some much needed rest and reading time!  But June is also a very important month: LGBTQ Pride Month.  I am a huge gay rights advocate and I think to be a culturally competent librarian, you must immerse yourself in ALL cultures so that you are always able to find the right book for the right reader.  So, here are my top ten picks for LGBTQ YA reads!  


I have to start this post with Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan.  I grew up in a community that was ‘sheltered’ per say but definitely everyone had their own opinion about everything.  And it was highly religious (not that there is anything wrong with being a person of faith…I am one and a proud Christian).   I had been involved in a lot of community theater so homosexuality wasn’t something I was unfamiliar with but I just had a few gay guy friends and I didn’t worry too much about their lives.

I am grateful for this book because it made me shake my views of homosexuality.  Before, I didn’t really care about my gay friends and about their struggles and I rarely even saw them outside of the theater where they were largely accepted.  Instead, it opened my eyes to a new community where gay people were…SHOCKER…just people.  They went through the same things that I did as a straight girl and then again, they went through a lot of hell to be the person they were.  Some endured too much.  Others didn’t have a problem.  But by and large, this book taught me that tolerance isn’t really enough.  It taught me about acceptance and about welcoming everyone in my life on equal levels.

So this book is and always will be my #1 LGBTQ pick.  I even was lucky enough to have a wonderful friend get this for me when he was in New York with David.  I may have cried when I opened the package.  Okay…I did.
Now, here is a a Top 10 Pick that I haven’t even read but I’m completely trusting my co-blogger’s judgement on…Karen has been RAVING about Ask the Passengers by A.S. King since she got home from TLA (Texas Library Association).  Now, A.S. King is a pretty amazing author (and my birthday buddy…March 10 FTW!) so I totally trust her work and Karen’s judgement.  (And A.S. King made sure that I note that her book is really about the Q of the LGBTQ initialism so I made sure to add my Q in the post.  Unfortunately, the pic I made already had LGBT in it….)  Since I haven’t read it…this is from Goodreads about the book:  
 
Astrid Jones copes with her small town’s gossip and narrow-mindedness by staring at the sky and imagining that she’s sending love to the passengers in the airplanes flying high over her backyard. Maybe they’ll know what to do with it. Maybe it’ll make them happy. Maybe they’ll need it. Her mother doesn’t want it, her father’s always stoned, her perfect sister’s too busy trying to fit in, and the people in her small town would never allow her to love the person she really wants to: another girl named Dee. There’s no one Astrid feels she can talk to about this deep secret or the profound questions that she’s trying to answer. But little does she know just how much sending her love–and asking the right questions–will affect the passengers’ lives, and her own, for the better. 

I am hoping to get a copy at ALA!  I have to read this book!!!!!!!!!!!!

Another excellent book by an amazing woman who I absolutely love to pieces is Scars by Cheryl Rainfield (finally available in e-book format!).  Scars takes a really deep look at childhood sexual abuse, cutting, and homosexuality and the effect on everyone involved but the beauty of this book is that it doesn’t focus so much on the issues as it focuses on Kendra, the characters, and her recovery.  This is what makes this a powerful read.  And as an interesting note, some of the story is autobiographical and, in fact, the arm depicted on the cover is actually Cheryl’s. 
Some of my favorite YA LGBTQ books are coming of age novels in which the teens themselves realize that they may be different and are working to either accept themselves or to help others accept them.   I think that these books are some of the better types of LGBTQ books because I feel as if many teens live in a self-discovery phase and if you read about a character that is experiencing the same thing…total connection.  Some of my favorite self-discovery books are….
Many books don’t focus on transgendered characters.  There have been several that I can name off the top of my head but one of my favorites is a newer book by Tanita S. Davis called Happy Families in which two middle grade students must learn how to cope, understand, and eventually accept their Dad’s decision to be a transgendered male.  Not to mention, this cover is PERFECT!
Now my last two picks are actually just excellent reads because they come from three of my all-time favorite authors.  The first is Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan.  One night, two boys, both named Will Grayson will meet and their worlds will collide in ways that only Nerdfighters, Levithan-Lovers, oh and just all of humanity can enjoy.  Fall in love with Tiny and take my word for it.
And the last book pick that I have is Shine by Lauren Myracle.  After a gay teen is found tied to a gas pump with the pump shoved down his throat and left for dead, a small town girl decides to uncover the mystery of who tried to kill her friend. 
 
Many of you remember this book because of the Shine/Chime mixup during the National Book Award debacle.  Shine did not win the award BUT Lauren Myracle did have the National Book Foundation give special $5,000 grant to the Matthew Shepard Foundation at her request.  For those of you not familiar with Matthew Shepard and his story, Matthew was killed in 1998 after a horrific hate crime in which he was severely assaulted, beaten, and then left to die in a field tied to a split rail fence.

Leslea Neman recently wrote a book which will be published in September of this year, almost 14 years after Matthew Shepard’s death, called October Mourning.  It is a novel in verse and it is her response tot he events of that day.  In honor of LGBTQ Pride Month, we will be giving away an ARC copy of October Mourning via Rafflecopter.

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TLA Baby!

Tuesday night I left work and drove 4 1/2 hours to make my pilgrimage to TLA.  TLA baby, here I came! It was a truly amazing day where I met a ton of amazing teen authors, talked to publishers and yes, I received some ARCs (which will get their own post).

Although the exhibit halls were amazing, and I’ll get back to them, the fun truly began at the Texas Teen Author Tea.  Here we were invited to speed date with a wide variety of amazing teen authors.  There were 60 authors in total present, but I didn’t get to date them all.  The even was introduced by Andrea White, author of the fabulous Surviving Antarctica, which I have loved for a long time and being a new Texas transplant I had no idea she was a Texas author.  Ms. White, it was announced, gave some money to YART, the Young Adult Round Table, and they were starting some cool online resources including something called SPOT, the Spirit of Texas Reading Program.  My favorite was when she said that our goal – authors, librarians – was to help teens learn that “books are relationships”, a book is more than just two covers with pages in between.  Well said.

Then the speed dating began!

First I dated Morgan Matson, author of Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour and the upcoming Second Chance Summer, and Jessi Kirby, author of Moonglass and the upcoming In Honor.  Both of these ladies were incredibly nice and I was lucky to later get signed copies of books by both.  Second Chance Summer and In Honor are both contemporary titles and I am so excited to read them.  As much as I love paranormal and dystopian – and you know I do! – it is always great to have those contemporary titles that help teens see the real world they live in just a little different, to open their hearts and minds and just be.

I had just tweeted that I hoped I got to meet David Lubar and bam – he sat down right next to me.  David is funny, not surpringly.  I also got the opportunity to tell him how much I appreciated authors like him who participated in the Yalsa-bk listserv discussions (Alex Flinn and Jonathan Maberry post frequently as well).  And then he mentioned the possibility of Zombie Weenies! I know he would also want me to mention the Weenies Topical and Literary Index, where he painstakingly indexed his weenies stories.  With David Lubar I met Christina Mandelski, the author of The Sweetest Thing.  My favorite part was when she told us that she took cake decorating classes to help her write this book and admitted to being obsessed with The Food Network.

I then got to meet Mary Lindsey, whose book Shattered Souls may have the most fabulous book cover ever.  She did a great job of selling her book and talked about the book cover process and it was very cool.  I ran into her again later and we chatted some more.  She shared that she was in the process of writing a very cool sounding Poe inspired book that I honestly can not wait to read.  With Mary came Greg Leitich Smith, author of Chronal Engine and yes, husband to Cynthia Lietich Smith.  He came bearing dinosaur tattoos and as far as I am concerned, there can no be enough dinosaur books.

I also met (cue squeeing) Megan Miranda, author of the breathtaking Fracture and learned that she has a background in science that helped influence the book.  Stasia Kehoe talked about her book, Audition, and how it really delves into the question of identity and talent and passion.  Also, audition has ballet and dance is really popular right now.  Here is my true confessions moment: I always wanted to be a ballerina, I own a copy of Center Stage and watch it often, and I watch Dance Academy on Teen Nick – purely for professional reasons, of course).  Then P. J. Hoover talks about her undying love of mythology and how it plays into her book series which begins with book 1, The Emerald Tablet.  Fans of the Percy Jackson series will love these.

After being sad for a few moment about the authors I didn’t get to speed date, which for me included Orson Scott Card, I returned to the exhibit halls where I had to buy a new copy of Shiver so I could have it signed by Maggie Steifvater.  Being a huge Shiver fan, this was quite the moment for me and Maggie was incredibly nice and gracious to everyone who stood in that line.

Then – bam – the moment truly had a moment of synergy as just that moment John Corey Whaley had written his Why YA? post about Love is the Higher Law and who should I meet?  Why yes, David Levithan himself.  He is, of course, one half of the brilliant writing partnership behind the truly marvelous Will Grayson, Will Grayson.  And it turns out, he is a book editor.  He is, in fact, the editor of The List by Shiobhan Vivian.  I have been dying to read this book so yes, yes I did buy it and get it signed.  I also got a picture of the wonder team.

Then, the most amazing thing happened! I met Barry Lyga.  That’s right folks, THAT Barry Lyga.  Author of the fabulous, and fabulously creepy, I Hunt Killers.  He himself is not creepy, just the book.  But fabulously so.  Barry himself was very personable.

I also met and talked to a look author named Beth Fehlbaum.  Her book, Hope in Patience, is a 2011 Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers.  Hope in Patience is about one young girls journey of recovery from abuse.  Fans of the Dave Pelzer books will want to read these.

I learned at the Harper Collins booth that Robison Wells was going to be at TLA today, a truly devastating realization for me as I left last night.  Thursday, in fact, is teen day and they are having a ton of great authors, groups of teens, lots of great ARCs and a huge Divergent/Insurgent moment.  I ran into a bunch of great librarians, authors and book bloggers and I am sure there will be lots of great posts in the next few days about it all.  I love conferences because they are this moment when all of us – authors, publishers, librarians – come together and rejuvenate.  We are all working towards the same goal: to get books into the hands of teens.  It’s nice to get together in person and share our stories of success, those moments when we learn how a book made the difference in someone’s life.

Why YA? 2012 Printz Award Winner John Corey Whaley tells you why!

Today as part of our ongoing Why YA? series the 2012 Printz Award Winner John Corey Whaley talks about a ya title that moved him.  Read on to learn what ya title lingers in the mind and soul of this award winning author.

I’ll make a confession: I read YA books.  You know what else I read?  I read newspaper articles, blogposts, essays, poetry, and . . . . wait for it . . . . adult literary fiction.  It’s possible to read them all and experience them all respectively.  But, to be quite honest, YA books have the most special place in my heart.  They are the titles I remember instantly when asked “What’s your favorite book?” YA books are the ones we keep with us for years and years, lifetimes even.

So I was asked to write about a YA book that means something to me, but there are so many that I’ve had a hard time choosing just one.  I could go with the literary masterpiece To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, which would most assuredly be classified as YA were it to be newly published today.  Or, I could choose a more recent work like Sherman Alexie’s heartfelt, painful, and gorgeous The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian. What about Frank Portman’s hilarious King Dork or Stephen Chbosky’s ode to teenage sexual/emotional confusion and angst, The Perks of Being a Wallflower? I could go on and on about these titles and why they transcend the adult-teenager literary divide. But, some of these I read as a teenager and I thought, to play fair, I’d discuss a YA book that I discovered as an adult.

In the few months prior to the release of my own YA book, I decided to read several titles that I’d had on my radar for years.  The one that has stuck with me most from that period of time (and will always stick with me) was David Leviathan’s Love is the Higher Law. This beautiful sincere novel told from the multiple perspectives of New York City teenagers in the wake of the September 11th attacks meant more to me than most books I’ve ever read in my life.  I think there are several reasons why this is true and why I would never be ashamed to be caught reading this title in a public place (thank you, Mr. Stein).

One reason is the beauty and courage with which Levithan approaches his characters as they experience, together and respectively, a rapidly changing world in which they suddenly learn they have very little control.  Their conversations, relationships, and emotions (and lack there of, sometimes) spoke to me on a personal level.

You see, I was seventeen on September 11, 2001.  Mind you, I was all the way down in Louisiana, far away from the actual events of the day, but I felt it just as I think most of us did.  I felt a physical change in the world that I had no idea how to respond to mentally or emotionally.  When I read this book, ten years later, I realized how I wasn’t alone with that feeling as a seventeen year old.  I read about Claire, Peter, and Jasper and how they were just as lost as I was, as a lot of us were, I think.

Levithan found a way to capture something that I think, as a writer of any genre, is nearly impossible.  He captured perfectly that universal haunting feeling that one gets when he or she realizes that nothing in the world makes a damn bit of sense anymore.  And he did this in a YA book. Go figure.

Speaking of “universal experiences,” I want to end by saying this: we were all teenagers.  It’s one of the very few things that every single adult on this planet has in common.  We have different faiths, different careers, different types of families, different geographic locations, and even different eating habits.  But one thing we all have is the memory of being a teenager.  We remember how it felt, how awesome it was sometimes and how much it sucked other times.  We remember discovering things for ourselves and making mistakes we knew better than to make in the first place.  We all share so few things, but being a teenager and knowing what it means to be one is a damn important one.  I write YA books because I choose to tell stories about growing up and about being a teenager and about discovering the world and the way its people work.  I do this not because I am too dumb to write adult books (in fact, I’m working on one now), but because teenagers are just us a few years ago.  They’re just waiting to grow up and become more bruised and cynical by the ways of the world.  I write YA because teenagers read with open eyes and, you know what? Maybe more adults should do the same. Now, excuse me while I go proudly wave my YA books in public places.

John Corey Whaley is the 2012 Michael L. Printz and William C. Morris Award winner for his debut novel, Where Things Come Back.  He was also named a 2011 5 Under 35 Author by the National Book Foundation.  Find out more at his webpage and follow him on Twitter (@corey_whaley).  Where Things Comes Back is the moving tale of Cullen Witter and his life in a small town with a missing brother, a missionary who is lost in other ways, and the strange reappearance of the extinct Lazarus Woodpecker.  “Complex but truly extraordinary, tinged with melancholy and regret, comedy and absurdity, this novel finds wonder in the ordinary and emerges as ultimately hopeful. It’s about a lot more than what Cullen calls, “that damn bird.” It’s about the dream of second chances.” – from Goodreads.com  “This extraordinary tale from a rare literary voice finds wonder in the ordinary and illuminates the hope of second chances.” – Amazon.com
You can write your own Why YA? post.  We’d love to hear from you.  Have you read Love is the Higher Language?  Share your thoughts with John Corey Whaley in the comments.