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ARCS to Movie DOUBLE GIVEAWAY!!!

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It’s no secret that I adore book based movies. (Really, who doesn’t?) I’ve gone opening night to both The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, and I saw Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. I really liked Beautiful Creatures (once I let go of the fact that it was based on the book). I’ve seen both Percy Jackson movies (I like the second better than the first, and will admit that I read the series AFTER the movies). I yelled in theaters at some of the changes they did to the Harry Potter movies. I did miss Vampire Academy, but that was more my schedule than anything else.


And I love hearing that a book is being picked up for a movie, so when they’re picked up BEFORE they’re even released, it’s even better! And we at Teen Librarian Toolbox are sharing our excitement with you! I have ARCs of TWO books that have been optioned to Hollywood, and you get your chance to win them before SCRIPTS are even made.

Are you ready?


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SO, to win, mention in the COMMENTS your FAVORITE book based movie and WHY, along with a contact (email or twitter address). One winner will be randomly selected to receive BOTH ARCs. Giveaway ends Saturday, April 5 (International Tabletop Gaming Day, BTW).

Book Review: Noggin by John Corey Whaley

Travis Coate’s head is now on someone else’s body. He was dying of cancer, so they removed it and cyrogenically froze it until the science caught up. Five years later it has, and now his head is attached to someone else’s body. Yep, it’s weird. And yep, it’s kind of fun.

A lot can happen in five years. His friends have graduated from high school. His girlfriend is now engaged to another man. And his parents seem a little bit different. But for Travis, it’s like he woke up the next day. Needless to say, fitting in again is hard.

This book is not at all what I expected, but it IS a richly emotional look at coming of age and coming into your own when you feel incredibly out of sync with the world around you (and with your own body). Basically, this teen novel is the perfect metaphor for teen life.

As a reader, I was so invested in Travis’ unusual story and his compelling voice. Loved the supporting cast of characters and the interesting twists that the re-emergence of someone they truly loved who hadn’t evolved with them into their lives. It’s kind of like meeting up with the high school friend at your 5 year reunion and realizing that while you went and grew up, they did not. I feel like if John Hughes were alive today this would be the perfect next movie project for him. And honestly, I would love to see this movie. (If you don’t know who John Hughes is, you should totally fix that right now and have a movie marathon.)

Great characters, great voice, nuanced and moving. Highly recommended. This second entry from Printz winner Whaley does not disappoint.

Publisher’s Description: 

Listen — Travis Coates was alive once and then he wasn’t.

Now he’s alive again.

Simple as that.

The in between part is still a little fuzzy, but he can tell you that, at some point or another, his head got chopped off and shoved into a freezer in Denver, Colorado. Five years later, it was reattached to some other guy’s body, and well, here he is. Despite all logic, he’s still 16 and everything and everyone around him has changed. That includes his bedroom, his parents, his best friend, and his girlfriend. Or maybe she’s not his girlfriend anymore? That’s a bit fuzzy too.

Looks like if the new Travis and the old Travis are ever going to find a way to exist together, then there are going to be a few more scars.

Oh well, you only live twice.

Noggin by John Corey Whaley will be published on April 8, 2014 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 9781442458727. I received an eARC for review purposes.

Texas Debut Authors Panel Recap

Last night I had the honor of hosting 6 up and coming debut authors from the DFW area at my library branch in Grand Prairie, Texas.  2012 Printz and Morris winning author John Corey Whaley was our host for the evening moderating the panel, and he is a very funny guy.  In fact, everyone on the panel was informative, entertaining, and great to spend an evening with.  If you have a chance, I highly recommend inviting them to your school or library to talk.  We talked books, both writing them and reading them, fears, guilty pleasures and more.

So, let’s begin our recap shall we . . .

John Corey Whaley

  • Was once a middle school teacher, though he claims he wasn’t a very good one.
  • He absolutely does not like Faulkner. At all.
  • He just turned in his next book, which he can’t talk about.  But the theme is apparently “absurdity”.
  • Has recently moved and is getting ready to make another move and teach a class on writing.
  • Is currently reading The Shining because he wanted a book that would creep him out.
  • Is a gentleman and really wanted to make the evening about the debut authors.

Lindsay Cummings

  • Is the author of the upcoming The Murder Complex, set in a future where the murder rate is higher than the birth rate.
  • She absolutely loves Twilight and doesn’t care who knows, she says she owns it.
  • She is afraid of “those creepy men who hit on you.” And you know, that is a legitimate fear.
  • While writing she asks herself, “What would Angelina Jolie do?”
  • She says that The Hunger Games is her “guilty pleasure”. 
  • Has 3 dogs
  • Is only 21 years old and is about to get published. She wrote her book when she was in her teens.


Mary Gray

  • Is the author of the upcoming The Dollhouse Asylum, where teens are forced to reenact the lives of tragic literary couples or die.  Such an intriguing concept.
  • Although I begged, she would not say which literary couples appear in the book.  I am intrigued.  Which couples do you think have to make an appearance?
  • Mary Gray is the mother of 3, so finding writing time can be a challenge.
  • Her favorite book series is His Fair Assassin series by Robin LaFevers, book 1 is Grave Mercy and book 2 is Dark Triumph.
  • Is also a huge fan of The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan, which inspired her to write a creepy book.
  • She is afraid of strawberries.  I’m not making that part up.
  • Does not like Dickens.

Jenny Martin

  • Is the author of the upcoming book Tracked, a science fiction space race with deadly consequences.
  • Is afraid of “jerks”
  • Does not like James Joyce
  • Can write anywhere with any type of background noise
  • Is a librarian (Woohoo for librarians!)
  • Says her guilty pleasure is Supernatural (how is that a guilty pleasure I ask!) and if you visit her on Twitter, you can see a picture of her with Sam, played by Jared Padelecki.
  • Is reading House of Leaves and Eleanor and Park at the moment.

Julie Murphy

  • Is the author of the upcoming Side Effects May Vary, a story about a girl who his diagnosed with cancer, goes and gets retribution on all the people she doesn’t like or has hurt her in life, and then finds out she has gone into remission.  Again, such an interesting concept for a book.  When discussing writing Murphy said she was interested in knowing what kind of girl she would be, what would her family be like, etc.
  • Hates Jane Austen but loves Degrassi, Blue Valentine and British TV Shows.
  • Told the funniest story about being severely sunburned when she received the call that her book had been sold and how she could barely hold the phone because of the pain.
  • Is afraid of Cicadas because bugs just shouldn’t be that big, it’s scientifically incorrect.
  • Is an academic librarian.
  • Thinks the most beautiful couple ever appears in the book The God Shaped Hole 
  • Says everyone should read Eleanor and Park RIGHT NOW.



Heather L. Reid

  • Is the author of the recently released Pretty Dark Nothing from Month9Books, a story about a girl who sees demons in her sleep and doesn’t know if they are real or if there is something wrong with her.
  • She recently moved back to Texas from Scotland.
  • Is a gamer.
  • Says it took over 7 years to get her book sold and published.
  • She knew she wanted to be a writer as a kid. (Many others on the panel did not. Mary Gray was the only other panel member who said she has known for a long time, since childhood, that she wanted to be a writer.)
  • Is afraid of roaches. She said this is weird, we all assured her it was not, perfectly reasonable fear if you ask me.
  • Says the Shining is the creepiest book she ever read.

Victoria Scott

  • Is the author of The Dante Walker series, a book about a teenage boy who dies, becomes a soul collector for the devil, and is then given 10 days to collect the soul of a girl named Charlie.Book 1 is The Collector, already out.  Book 2 is The Liberator, coming out in August I believe.
  • Is terribly afraid of monkeys. Animals should not have thumbs – she believes this strongly.
  • Watches Teen Mom as her guilty pleasure.
  • Listens to hard rock like Korn.
  • Is more organized than others on the panel in her writing process. She has outlines, character profiles, etc. in a series of folders and subfolders on her computer. Most of the other panel members said they did not outline and wished they were more organized.
  • Is reading and recommends Scorched by Mari Mancusi, she says her excellent writing makes her feel so inadequate as a writer.
  • Says The Hot Zone freaked her out and then tried to freak us all out about the Ebola virus.  Corey Whaley talked about the movie Contagion, which I am actually obsessed with and watch almost nightly in the background when I read (something about it makes good background noise).  I was very upset when I accidentally erased it – and everything else – off of my DVR.

I want to give a heartfelt thanks to everyone on the panel for their time and such a wonderful library program and discussion. Everyone in attendance gave lots of compliments on the night.  I was encouraged to hear how all the various writers came to write ya books and that they had both an appreciation for teens and teen literature.  One of the panel members said they actually liked being a teenager.  I think that means they were doing it wrong. I am loo kingforward to reading all the books, they sound so good.

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

Q&A: Meet the 2012 Printz Award Winner John Corey Whaley

Last year, a debut author from a small town in Louisiana (WOOT!  LOUISIANA PRIDE!) proudly/nervously anticipated the day that his book would hit store shelves.  And when that magical day came, little did John Corey Whaley know that his days as an English teacher were numbered and his life as an award-winning author would soon begin.  From becoming the first young adult author to ever receive the National Book Foundations ‘5 Under 35’ Honor, to winning the William C. Morris Debut Author Award AND the 2012 Michael L. Printz winner for Excellence in Young Adult Literature.   

Today at TLT, we are honored to host an author interview with Corey Whaley and signed copy of his book as a giveaway! 

Stephanie Wilkes of TLT and Printz Winner John Corey Whaley

Can you describeWhere Things Come Back in 140 characters or less?


Teen boy in small town tries to grow up despite a dead cousin, a missing brother, a thought-to-be-extinct woodpecker, and dangerous crushes. 

What was your motivation behind writing this novel?

Initially, I wanted to write a simple coming-of-age story set in a small, Southern town.  However, after certain events and after hearing a particular story about the Ivory-billed woodpecker, I set out to write a story about growing up, faith, and second chances—and that any of these things are possible in an impossible world.  

What kind of a role did music play in the creation of this book? 

Music played a healthy role in this story.  Sufjan Stevens’ “The Lord God Bird” is hat introduced me to the idea of the bird in the story in the first place, so I owe it much.  There are also several song lyrics in the novel, which have meaning to the respective characters.

 Now, there are cover lovers (I’m one!) and cover haters…what was your reaction when you first saw the cover of the hardback and do you still feel the same way?

I fell in love with the hardback cover the minute I saw it.  I knew it was perfect (despite the fact that some would “hate” as you put it.)  For this story, for something to personal and meaningful that I’d lived with for so many years, the image of the cover sealed the deal….I finally had a physical image to put with my first book. It was so great.

If you could give Cullen one piece of advice, what would it be?

I’d probably tell Cullen not to be so cynical, despite everything going on around him.  Cullen’s cynicism is based on my own teenage attitude and I know now that I missed out on a lot of things when I was in high school and college just because my cynicism was so powerful and debilitating.  I can still be cynical sometimes, but when it keeps you from experiencing the world and people, it’s dangerous.  

 It’s been stated several times around the blogsophere that you write for intelligent teens and that your books surpass the teen ‘genre’ and are also enjoyable for adults to read.  When you started writing WTCB, did you write with an intended audience?

I didn’t.  My life-long mission had been to write a novel and I’ll readily admit that I hadn’t studied up on genres and whatnot before setting out to finally do so.  I will say this, though: I don’t think we have to pigeonhole books anymore.  We don’t tell people that Van Gogh is for adults or that Dr. Seuss can just be enjoyed by kids.  Reading is personal, just like any art form, and I know plenty of teens (of varying intellects) that have enjoyed WTCB and many other books with crossover potential. 

Winning the Printz Award must have completely blown your mind!  Where were you when you got the call?

Well, I was driving when I got the call (on my way to Dallas to accept the Morris Award) and, to be quite frank, I went into complete shock.  I don’t remember parking my car as the Printz committee shouted their congratulations over the phone.  It was epic and awesome and potentially dangerous.  I’ll never forget it. 

That’s so awesome!  Has life changed for you since?

Since the Printz, I’ve been touring like crazy and am about to do several events with Printz honorees Maggie Stiefvater and Daniel Handler, which I’m really excited about.  Things have sort of been crazy, in the best of ways. 

 Are you working on any new projects?

I am.  I’m currently working on two more YA novels.  One is a dark murder mystery set in South Louisiana and the other is more of a light-hearted comedy that takes place all over the country.

What are you reading right now?

Currently, I’m reading a couple of great books.  I just started Catching Fire(don’t judge, I’m late to the game, okay?). I’m also reading The Scorpio Races by my pal Maggie Stiefvater. 

 What are three weird facts that your readers may not know about you?

1.)   I do not eat lettuce.  People find this weird, though, to me, it’s normal.
2.)   I never had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich until I was 24 years old.
3.)   Despite being a writer (and a rather quick one), I am a terribly slow reader-always have been. It sometimes takes me weeks to get through a book.

Today is the one year anniversary of the publication of the multiple award winning book Where Things Come Back.  How are we celebrating? With a signed book giveaway of course.  Follow the Rafflecopter instructions to enter to win.  And be sure to read this Why YA? post to learn how grad student Callie Ann feels about Where Things Come Back.

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

/*{literal}{/literal}*/ a Rafflecopter giveawayYou need javascript enabled to see this giveaway. [Read more…]

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.