Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Take 5: Teens as Sci Fi Soldiers(ish) – When YA Lit meets The Bourne Identity or Red Dawn (or even 12 Monkeys)

When we read The Hunger Games, we like to think to ourselves that we know that would never happen – who sends kids out to kill? But the truth is, there are countries all over the world where children are in fact forced to become soldiers and fight for causes they know little about and are forced to serve at the whims of adults. But it can’t happen HERE we say – but what if it could? What if it did? Here’s a look at some cool science fiction stories where teens are manipulated by adults to become soldiers or mercenaries of some kind. They’re pretty cool books to read, but they also make us a little bit uncomfortable because we would like to think there is no possible way it could happen . . . but the truth is sometimes people in power will go to great lengths to keep that power. Like all good science fiction, these titles create absurd sounding scenarios to make us think about real world truths. And these titles ask us to think about things like free will and determination, nature vs. nurture, the role of government in our lives, and what lengths we are (and should be) willing to go to in order to keep ourselves – our country – safe.

I Become Shadow by Joe Shine
“Ren Sharpe was abducted at fourteen and chosen by the mysterious F.A.T.E. Center to become a Shadow: the fearless and unstoppable guardian of a future leader. Everything she held dear—her family, her home, her former life—is gone forever.” (Publisher’s description)

As an action/thriller, this is a fun story. There is a lot of interesting subtext about free will. I was surprised by some of the decisions characters made at the end, which would make for some great discussions. There is also some very interesting subtext about addiction that could make for great discussion. And of course it asks the age old question: what lengths should we go to in order to protect our future. This is an interesting read.

 

Uninvited by Sophie Jordan
When Davy Hamilton’s tests come back positive for Homicidal Tendency Syndrome (HTS)-aka the kill gene-she loses everything. Her boyfriend ditches her, her parents are scared of her, and she can forget about her bright future at Julliard. Davy doesn’t feel any different, but genes don’t lie. One day she will kill someone.”

I really like this book a lot. Because they fear she MIGHT in the future become violent, Davy is removed from her normal life and put in a situation with people who are in fact very violent. This is a look at the age old nature vs. nurture argument. It is also an interesting discussion about the prison system as every day we see minor offenders placed into jail who then become more violent offenders because they are forced to try and survive in the prison environment. And then there are some twists that make this book fit the list but I’m not going to elaborate. Just take my advice and read this book, it’s really good. The next book, Unleashed, comes out in February 2015 from Harper Teen. 

Tabula Rasa by Kristen Lippert-Martin
“Sixteen-year-old Sarah has a rare chance at a new life. Or so the doctors tell her. She’s been undergoing a cutting-edge procedure that will render her a tabula rasa—a blank slate. Memory by memory her troubled past is being taken away.” (Publisher’s description)

In my review earlier this month I note that there are a couple of flaws with this book, but in terms of readability it is a lot of fun. The tagline itself describes Tabula Rasa as The Bourne Identity meets Divergent. There are, once again, lots of interesting discussions to be had about science ethics, free will and autonomy, and the role that adults can play in the lives of teens. High on readability and survival, it’s a good read.

Blackout by Robison Wells
“Laura and Alec are trained terrorists.
Jack and Aubrey are high school students.
There was no reason for them to ever meet.

(Publisher’s description)

This is one of those books I really would have liked to have seen get more love; it is really under-rated. It’s got your post-apocalyptic virus plague scenario, a dystopian government, some X-men like superpowers, teens conscripted into government service, and a dash of terrorism mixed in to make it an almost perfect reflection of modern fears. In my earlier review I said, “Blackout definitely excels as a thriller.  I highly recommend this book.” So let’s give this book the love it deserves.

Reboot by Amy Tintera
“Five years ago, Wren Connolly was shot three times in the chest. After 178 minutes she came back as a Reboot: stronger, faster, able to heal, and less emotional. The longer Reboots are dead, the less human they are when they return. Wren 178 is the deadliest Reboot in the Republic of Texas. Now seventeen years old, she serves as a soldier for HARC (Human Advancement and Repopulation Corporation).” (Publisher’s description)

Teens who are essentially “zombies” – though definitely not traditional zombies – are stripped of their rights and forced to serve as a government clean up crew to help protect the remaining humans from those that reboot. This is another one of those titles that I want to see get more love because it is such an interesting twist on zombies and is a compelling metaphor for discrimination, something we’re talking a lot about these days. What makes us human and does one group of people’s rights trump those of another? Like all good sci fi, this can be read on multiple levels and can lead to some interesting discussions. Read my earlier review here. The sequel Rebel is out now for your reading pleasure.

Blackout by Robison Wells and How I Learned to Question What Teens Are Learning About the Government

Two interesting things happened last month: I read Blackout by Robison Wells and we learned that the NSA is getting access to a large amount of data about ordinary American citizens.  And this past week, Salon has been running a series of articles about militant police forces.  These combination of events really made me wonder:  Will teens today even know to question these type of revelations and wonder why they should be concerned?

Laura and Alec are trained terrorists.

Jack and Aubrey are high school students.

There was no reason for them to ever meet.

But now, a mysterious virus is spreading throughout America, infecting teenagers with impossible powers. And these four are about to find their lives intertwined in a complex web of deception, loyalty, and catastrophic danger—where one wrong choice could trigger an explosion that ends it all. (Goodreads)

Teens today are living in a post 9/11 world.  The youngest of teens will now never remember that you could go wait with your friends at the airline terminal, that you could keep your shoes on and not be x-rayed by strangers just to get past security.  They will never know what it was like not to have an easily tracked cell phone (actually, our poorer teens will, but that is an entirely different issue).  They will never know what it is like not to have a camera on every store front where their progress simply walking down a street can simply and quickly be retraced.  Which is why we need books not only like Fahrenheit 451 and 1984, but books like Blackout by Robison Wells.

In Blackout, a virus causes genetic mutations that cause teens to develop “powers”.  Some of the teens are used by a terrorist group to attack the United States so the military swoops in and takes all of the teens to what are basically internment camps. In these camps the teens are tested to see if they have powers and basically logged into a military database.  The government then tries to recruit those teens that test positive to help them fight the war against the terrorists.  The only way to fight terrorist teens with super powers is to recruit other terrorist teens with super powers.  So teens that do have powers are not truly as free as those teens that do no have powers.  And all teens must wear a bracelet to show that they have been tested.  And yes, there is a lot of symbolism that will bring to mind things like World War II and the Jewish Holocaust, though there are definitely some unique twists here.

Blackout is a really interesting book.  And it is thrilling.  But as I read it I thought, would teens today even question it if the government came in and rounded them all up as they do in this book?  Which is one of the reasons why teens need to be reading books like this.  One of the best things about Science Fiction is how it can make us think about the things happening in our world by creating an abstract version of the world that challenges our current beliefs.  We can read The Hunger Games so voraciously in part because there is a part of us that can see our world headed in that direction.  It is the same for Blackout.  Sure, there is probably never going to be a virus that gives teenagers X-Men like superpowers, but this scenario can still help us to think about things like personal freedom, the limits of government, and how we respond to and treat those that are different from us.

Blackout is also interesting in that it specifically creates a world where terrorism is rampant.  This is book one in a series so we don’t know a lot about the motivations of the terrorists, but we definitely see the effects of both living in this daily terror and in how much they have decimated this future United States.  It is interesting to note that even though we have been living under a color coded terrorist alert system since 2002, not much of the young adult literature being written today speaks specifically about terrorism.  And, as a bonus, Wells creates a way to talk about terrorism without vilifying any particular people group by creating this implausible scenario.  Like I said, we don’t know who the terrorists are at this point and what their motivation is, but I sincerely hope it doesn’t turn out to be a scenario that reinforces current stereotypes.

My only issue with Blackout is that it is coming out at the end of a year when there have already been a lot – and I do mean A LOT – of books that involve teen characters that have some type of X-Men like abilities.  The abilities in this one are varied and cool, and it is interesting to see how they can be used and the tension they create.  Wells puts his main characters in some unique scenarios that really amp up the tension and there are times when even you, the reader, have no idea who is who and on what side.  Blackout definitely excels as a thriller.  I highly recommend this book.

Blackout by Robison Wells will be released by HarperTeen in October of 2013.  ISBN: 9780062026125

The Murder of a Shopping Bag Lady: mental illness in three acts

Like many of you, the events of Friday, December 12th has me thinking and reflecting on the world that we live in.  It also has me thinking about my kids, not just the kids that I have given birth to – but to every kid I have loved along the way as a librarian, because they become a part of your life.  This weekend I have spent a lot of time thinking about mental health and the ways in which we view it in our world today and the ways in which we fail the most vulnerable among us.  These are my thoughts.

Act I
A while ago, during a time of transition in my life, my family and I had the opportunity to stay with another couple.  The man in this story wore a gun on his hip – all. the. time.  We could all be sitting in the living room on the couch and the gun would be there.  At the time, my children were 2 and 8.  It soon became clear that having us around was causing this man to unravel, and the situation escalated, slowly at first and rapidly towards the end.  His behavior became increasingly erratic and disturbing, at times outright threatening. 

At one point, I walked into the living room to see him showing a large hunting knife to my 2 year old. “This is a cool toy,” he told my 2-year-old. “I am going to set it right here on this coffee table for you to play with.” I grabbed my child and we left the house.  I wrestled with what I had seen, who says those kinds of things to a small child?

As his behavior continued to unravel, he began playing what he thought was a funny joke: he would use the automatic garage door opener to open the garage, pull out his gun, and pretend that someone was breaking in. 

On our final night there, there was an incident involving my children in the bathroom.  They had locked themselves in for privacy, the 2-year-old followed the 8-year-old everywhere, and they became upset that the 2-year-old was in the bathroom – why? what was she doing? The man slammed down the footrest of his chair and bellowed, “I’ll get them out of that goddamn bathroom.”  At the exact same moment my girls opened the door, I grabbed them, and we fled the house.  I don’t know how he intended to get them out of the bathroom, but the environment had grown menacing enough of the last two weeks that I feared him.  The night before I had laid in bed and wondered: if he finally snaps and pulls his gun, do I tell the girls to hide in the closet or try and unlock the front door and flee.  We packed our things and left.

Act II
But, let’s take a moment and step into my time machine, shall we?  My sophomore year in high school we were given a reading assignment: we had to check out and read a nonfiction book.  Like most teens, I found my book by browsing the shelves.  It was titled The Murder of a Shopping Bag Lady (by Brian Kates) and it at least sounded interesting.  I mean, it had murder in the title.  It would turn out to be my most profound reading experience ever, one I still think of to this day.

The Murder of a Shopping Bag lady began as a simple investigation by a reporter into the murder of a Jane Doe.  It quickly became, however, an interesting look at our nation’s mental health system, our homelessness problem, and the way that legislation fails to protect the most vulnerable among us.  Because we value our freedoms so fiercely, many of our most unfunctioning – but not an immediate threat – are left to wander the streets without homes, adequate access to health care, and the accountability they often need to stay on their medications.  It can be a delicate balance trying to balance individual freedoms with mental health issues.  Sometimes, we fail.

Here I was at the tender age of 15, gaining an understanding of the world I saw around me.  I hadn’t yet seen a lot of mental illness first hand in my life, but growing up in Southern California I had seen my fair share of homeless people.  This book would help me develop an understanding and an empathy that I would need throughout my adult years, both personally and professionally.

Act III
One of my library positions involved working daily with a library patron who had severe mental health issues.  Some days, she would even come in walking different, using a different voice, and a different name.  Like the living situation mentioned above, it was often nerve wracking, terrifying, stressful.  Although we had a clear understanding that there were elements going on in this individual’s life that she could not control, we also had a clear understanding that we were in no way prepared to deal with the daily onslaught that came from trying to negotiate our interactions with her.  Although it was known that she had mental health issues, she was also an independent adult and her rights to privacy meant that was no one we could contact to help us understand and navigate the situation.  We asked for and received training on dealing with difficult patrons, but even that can’t help prepare you when a patron comes flying out of the stacks and asks if you were calling her a bitch, or to print out the information the patron requested just to watch her tear it up and ask you to print it out again because she really needs it, or what to do when she is threatening other patrons.

She was eventually moved after they found her walking down the middle of the street in the middle of a snowy, winter night wearing a t-shirt and shorts.  It was in many ways a relief not to have the daily stress at work, but I often wonder how she is doing and wish her nothing but health and well being.

While it is undeniably true that not all mentally ill individuals will become violent, it is also true that significant violence is perpetrated by those who are mentally ill.  The other truth is that you never know if and when ANYONE around you will snap, although you often at least consider the possibility when you are dealing with mentally ill individuals who have threatening or aggressive tendencies.  Many of us in libraries have been in those situations that produced this fear in us.

Because of the nature of public libraries, we spend a lot of time interacting with a wide variety of mental illness.  I have had teens come to library programs with companions who were there to help the teen navigate the situation.  I have seen families come to family programs only to witness one parent taking one of the children home soon into the program.  And we have all had to navigate those delicate desk interactions or behavior issues.  We always do the best that we can with the knowledge we have given the parameters of our library policies.

But the truth is, there is inadequate training for those who work in the public in knowing how to navigate these delicate situations.  In fact, many libraries probably haven’t had this training at all, and they should.

I would also argue that we do a really poor job in our country of addressing the needs of those with mental illness and their caregivers.  I know several families who have children on the Autism spectrum and their lives are very different from yours and mine.  They spend a great amount of time and money on therapies (which are often inadequate because they are not covered by insurance), many of them are locked tightly in their homes because ASD children have a propensity to not understand danger to self and flee, and they are isolated and alone in a world where complete strangers will walk up to them and say, “If I were you I would bend that kid over my knee and spank them.” – which is actually not helpful in these situations.  (And before you flame me, yes I do know that there are many people who say Autism is not mental illness, but that doesn’t change the reality of the lives that some parents are living with children on the extreme end of the spectrum. Also, Autism has a high co-morbidity of other mental health issues like OCD, bi-polar disorder, etc.)

As someone who works with our youth, I have seen them struggle with mental health issues, whether it be their own or someone else’s in their home.  I recall growing up in a home where during one family fight someone said, “well I’ll just go get a gun and kill us all.”  As people who care about our nation, our youth, we need to be talking about mental health issues. And we need to be doing more for the most vulnerable among us.  While many in the media are arguing that we have failed our children with our gun laws, we are failing far more of them with the way we stigmatise mental health issues and fail to provide proper medical treatment and coverage so they or their parents don’t get adequate treatment.  We need to start talking about mental health.

For an excellent look at mental health issues, please read Robison Well’s post How Mental Illness Tried and Failed to Ruin My Life.  You can also read his excellent post entitled How Close Are We to More Killings?
And for a good look at some teen titles that accurately reflect life with mental illness, check out this booklist.

If you can get your hands on a copy of the book, I really recommend it. A lot of the statistics will be out of date, but the insight is still relevant and powerful.

How Mental Illness Tried and Failed to Ruin My Life by Robison Wells

Variant by Robison Wells was one of my favorite books of 2011 and I became an instant fan of Robison Wells.  It’s a book that has one of those “What the Heck” just happened moments.  If you read my previous post, If You Give a Geek a Computer, you know that at some point I stumbled upon Wells’ webpage where he shares openly about his struggles with mental health issues.  And if you are a regular reader here at TLT you know that part of our mission is to increase awareness and understanding of the issues that affect teen lives.  Mental health issues can affect teens in one of two ways: they are either struggling with their own mental health issues (“Fifty-one percent of boys and 49 percent of girls aged 13-19 have a mood, behavior, anxiety or substance use disorder, according to the study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.”) or they are struggling to live in families with members affected by mental health issues.  Today, I am honored to share this guest blog post by author Robison Wells to help us better understand mental health issues.  Be sure and check out our Top 10 list from Tuesday for some good suggestions of ya titles that deal well with mental health issues. 
Ladies and gentleman, Robison Wells . . .
 
 
Author Robison Wells holding a copy of Feedback, the sequel to Variant.
Feedback is being released in October of 2012 by HarperTeen
I used to have a healthy brain. According to most measures of success, I was doing great: I had published three books in the local market and had just secured a fantastic three book contract with HarperCollins; I had finished a master’s degree and worked for Fortune 500 companies and groundbreaking startups; I had a wife and three kids, and a little house with a big garden. Everything really seemed to be going my way.

 

However, lurking under all of it was growing problem. It started one late night while I was working


for ConAgra foods, doing brand management for Orville Redenbacher popcorn. It was a stressful time: I was working 60-70 hours per week, and one night I was all alone at the office at about 9:00pm. And suddenly I was completely overcome by a paralyzing fear. It wasn’t fear of anything specific: at that moment I wasn’t afraid of meeting my deadlines or associating with coworkers. It was just an overriding desire—need—to crawl under my desk and hide, or, better yet, to get out of the office completely. To run and run and never look back. 

I didn’t know it at the time, but this was my first ever panic attack. My heart raced. My breathing was rapid and shallow. My face felt hot and flushed. And I had an overwhelming sense of doom.

 

Things got better. I was fine the next day, though a little bit rattled by the experience, and I went for months without having another attack. But as time went on they started to happen with more frequency. I’d be in a meeting and have a sudden, irrational need to get out of the room, to get out of the building. My wife would sometimes find me sitting on the floor in between the bed and the wall, or in the back of the closet, or on the kitchen floor, in the dark, at midnight.

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It was getting worse, and it was getting worse fast. I finally visited my family doctor and he confirmed my suspicions: I wasn’t just overworked, or unable to deal with stress of family, work, and writing. Instead, I was diagnosed with a severe panic disorder.

Panic disorder is a mental illness, one in which your brain’s autonomic nervous system—the famous fight or flight response—is always turned on. Essentially, some switch was flipped in my brain, and my body suddenly thought that I was (and that I always was) being chased by a bear. I was always alert, like a rabbit who’s smelled a nearby wolf, and I could never concentrate or even sleep. My body simply wouldn’t let me relax because it thought that relaxation would result in my death. My brain was broken.

I don’t know the cause. As with most mental illnesses, there’s no easy answer—no smoking gun that can be pointed to to explain everything. It was probably stress. It was probably a genetic disposition toward anxiety problems. It was probably a lifelong list of unidentified symptoms.

 
It got worse before it got better. The panic disorder led to agoraphobia. (Agoraphobia is essentially the fear of having a panic attack, so it makes me afraid/unwilling to do things that might spark an attack. It’s become increasingly difficult to leave the house, or to go anywhere where there might be crowds. I lost my job because I was simply unable to enter conference rooms, or go to group meetings, or make stressful phone calls.)

And the agoraphobia led to the scariest of all symptoms: an obsessive-compulsive self-harm complex. It started with a fixation on the stairs. Every time I’d go down to my office (several times a day) I would fantasize about falling down the stairs—I’d think about how much better life would be if I did. Then it changed to an obsession with breaking my hand. Then an irrational, obsessive, all-consuming desire to bleed from my head.

It was at this point that my family doctor pulled some strings and got me in to see a real psychiatrist. (I’d been on a six month waiting list, but my insurance wasn’t great.)

The psychiatrist changed some medicines, adding a few and taking a few away. He sent me to a sleep lab to work on the insomnia (I’d only been getting 2-3 hours of sleep a night because my body was so on-edge.) He sent me to a psychologist for cognitive behavioral therapy. And things started to get better. Slowly.

So why am I telling you all of this? Three reasons.

First, it’s easier to talk about than to hide it. For a long time I used to make excuses for why I couldn’t go places. I also get migraines, so they’d be a convenient lie to get me out of a party. Or I’d tell my writing group that I had car problems, or that my family needed me at home. And, of course, lying only made it all worse. It’s always better to talk openly about your problems than to hide them—even when the problems are as big and as daunting as these.

Second, I talk about this because I want to remove the social stigma. Mental illness is exactly that: an illness. It’s no different than diabetes or pneumonia or cancer. No one feels like they need to hide pneumonia—like they should be ashamed of themselves, or that they should just “muscle through” the coughing and fluid-filled lungs and “be a man”. And yet that’s often the feeling with mental illness. And it’s just plain wrong. People with mental illness need to get help, from doctors and friends and family. And the more that I, and other sufferers, talk about mental illness, the more likely people will be willing to get that help. The more likely they’ll be to stop lying, to stop hiding their problems. Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed about. It’s something to get treated.

Third, because I want to give you—those who are suffering from this or other mental illnesses—hope. I’m still sick—I had a horrible day yesterday—but I’m far better than I was six months ago. And I’m back to work, back to being successful. Three weeks ago I finished the best manuscript I’ve ever written. I still have my wife and three kids, and even though I’m not the perfect dad (I still can’t handle noise and chaos), I love my family. My mental illnesses—all of them—are not going anywhere, but they’re being managed, and I’m able to function somewhat normally. Nothing about mental illness is easy, but with the proper help and the support, you don’t have to be afraid of it—you don’t have to be afraid of your own brain. You can live a fulfilling life, and you can still achieve your dreams.
 
You can find out more about Robison Wells by visiting his webpage.  You can also follow him on Twitter @robisonwells.

For more information about teen mental health, please visit Teen Mental Heath.org or Teen Screen.org.
 
Win and ARC of Variant and Feedback!
 

And because I have them, I am going to give away my ARCs of Variant and Feedback to 1 lucky winner.  Just leave a comment with a way to get in touch with you (either an e-mail address or Twitter @) by Sunday, September 2nd to be entered to win.

Top 10 Tuesday: Top 10 Recs of the Week

Every week here at TLT we declare a book our REC OF THE WEEK.  These are our favorites that we recommend you check out ASAP.  And because I like to pretend I am an artist (“I’m not an artist, I just play one on my blog.”), I like to come up with a unique pic that somehow captures the spirit of the book. Or at least makes you want to look into it further.  For our first Top 10 Tuesday, we bring you our Top 10 Recs of the Week.

Join us each week to see what the new Rec of the Week is going to be and what original graphic we will create for it.  Want to learn more about the books mentioned above?  Just click on the picture and it will take you to our review.  Check in to TLT for new book reviews, library information, Why YA? posts and more.  Just because a book isn’t our rec of the week doesn’t mean we don’t love it.  Sadly, it turns out there are only 52 weeks in a year.  You can read all of our 2012 book reviews here and find more books we love and think you should read ASAP.

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.