Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Middle School Monday – Author Victoria Schwab


After about 4 years of friendship on social media, I finally got to meet Victoria Schwab this weekend. I shouldn’t complain; I have a wonderful local book store which is able to attract some of the biggest and brightest stars of the writing world as well as some of the more obscure. On the other hand, I don’t live in New York or Texas (where they seem to have ALL THE AUTHOR EVENTS.) So, when I heard that Victoria was coming to Malaprops Book Store in Asheville, NC, I started making plans immediately. After all, it’s only four hours away from where I live. I’m so glad I did.

In addition to being a brilliant and prolific author, Victoria is gracious, friendly, and an enthusiastic featured author. She has a lovely demeanor which puts both attendees and others on stage at ease and invites them to glory in their love of story. I was doubly fortunate that this event included 3 other authors to whom’s works I had yet to be introduced (Ryan Graudin, Jessica Khoury, and Delilah S. Dawson) as well as being moderated by local author Beth Revis.

This event was to celebrate the recent release of her adult novel A Gathering of Shadows (which premiered at #15 on the NYT Best Seller’s list), the sequel to A Darker Shade of Magic, so it might seem odd that I’m featuring her on Middle School Monday, but not if you’re aware of the vast body of work this young author has produced. In addition to her adult titles, Victoria has written 4 middle grade titles and 3 (4 this summer) young adult titles.

Her Everyday Angel series is very popular in my library. They are stories about an odd guardian angel and the three young girls she must help in order to earn her wings. Additionally, we are eagerly awaiting our copy of her addition to the Spirit Animals series, Broken Ground, in which the four protagonists battle an ancient evil.

We are fortunate enough to also have copies of her 3 released Young Adult Titles. The Near Witch, her debut novel, is ‘part fairy tale, part love story.’ Her next two YA titles, The Archived and its sequel The Unbound tell the story of Mackenzie Bishop, who is tasked with keeping order in the world of the Archive, where the stories of the dead are stored. These two are my most favorite of her books.

I’m really looking forward to her next YA novel, This Savage Song. From the publisher:

There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war; a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from acclaimed author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their homes at stake. For fans of Holly Black, Maggie Stiefvater, and Laini Taylor.

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, who uses his power to protect the innocent. Thrown together by a crumbling truce and a failed assassination attempt, Kate and August must flee to save themselves. In This Savage Song, Victoria Schwab creates her own dark metropolis, worthy of being compared to Gotham. But it’s not superheroes who will save this city—it’s two teenagers. This Savage Song begins a two-book saga about finding where we belong, and becoming who we are meant to be.

Cczwg7nW8AQe2KM.jpg-largeI didn’t get a picture of us together (so sad) but the line was so long, I didn’t want to hold it up any longer than necessary. To compensate, here is the picture I did take – from the front row – while I was waiting for the event to start.

An Interview with Victoria Schwab

I’ve been following the career of author Victoria Schwab for some time. I was tipped off to her awesomeness by her friend and fellow YA author, Rachel Hawkins, and have no regrets that I immediately began following (author stalking) her on Twitter. Victoria generously shares the experiences of her life as a (frighteningly successful) young author on Twitter, on her blog, and through her YouTube channel. I was excited when she announced her upcoming blog tour for The Unbound (read my review here) and advocated for TLT to be one of her stops. Luckily, I was successful. Read on to find Victoria’s good humored answers to my somewhat ‘author-stalkerish’ questions.

In The Unbound we see Mackenzie attempt to acclimate to life at a private, college-prep high school. How much of what we see on the page was informed by your own high school experience?

I’m excited, because I’ve always wanted to write a prep school, and in THE UNBOUND I finally get to. I myself went to a prep school, but it was an all-girls uniformed prep school in the south, so it was even more intense than Mackenzie’s co-ed one. I definitely pulled on some personal experience though, when it came to shaping Hyde School, from the grounds to the privilege and private school culture.

One of Mackenzie’s new school friends, Amber Kinney, is described as having “a simple lack of filter between her brain and mouth.” I love this description! (Probably because I enjoy this character trait in others.) Is Amber inspired by anyone?

Nope. I actually never turn people I know into characters, because then I start feeling a loyalty to the inspiration instead of the fiction, and that can be hindering. But I think we’ve all known Amber Kinneys (I certainly knew a few) and she made a really great foil for Mac, a little glimpse of what Mac’s life would be like out of a supernatural context.

Can you tell us a little about your graduate school plans in Scotland so we can all live vicariously through you?

Haha, well, I’m doing a one-year Masters program in Art History (specifically polytheistic imagery) starting in September at the University of Edinburgh. Considering I still have books under contract, it’s going to be a challenge, but I gave up sleep years ago 😉

I know you’re a Doctor Who fan – are you willing to reveal your favorite Doctor and/or companion?

In my opinion there is only one Doctor, and that is Tennant. As for companions, I’m a Donna fan 🙂 

Sherlock or Elementary? Or both? Neither?

Sherlock. Sherlock. Sherlock. 

What books were you obsessed with as a teen?

You know, I was very, very fortunate in that I was the same age as Harry Potter, and so had the opportunity to age with those books. It was an incredible time to live through, fictionally. 

Tell us the story of Tattie Boy? Please?

Haha, there is no story of the Tattie Boy. But hey, when I move to Edinburgh, perhaps there will be. 

If you could meet and/or hug any author you’ve never had a chance to meet – who would it be?

That’s a hard question, since it’s a well-known fact about me that I’ve already been given the chance to hug my hero–Neil Gaiman–three times. But I would say J.K. Rowling. I’ve gotten to see her in person, but no hug…yet. 

What upcoming books are you most excited to read?

Oh goodness, I feel so constantly behind on new books (I tend to read them once they’ve been out for months, if not years) but I can’t wait to get my hands on Leigh Bardugo’s RUIN AND RISING. I need it like fire. 
Our thanks to Victoria for making us one of her stops on The Unbound blog tour. 

Book Review – The Unbound by Victoria Schwab

Mackenzie is back in this sequel to The Archived (read Karen’s review here.) It’s been three weeks since she used Da’s crew key to dispatch the deeply disturbed Owen into the void, and it’s time for school to start. Still injured in both body and spirit, Mackenzie must psych herself up to attend the selective, private Hyde School, where she will be a junior. It’s hard enough to join a new school as a junior, much less one where most of the students have known each other since kindergarten (or before.) Mackenzie must also deal with the need to hide her life as a Keeper for The Archive while acclimating to this new environment.

On her first day at Hyde, Mackenzie is greeted by the handsome and jovial Cash, who becomes a regular fixture in her school life. Cash comes with a new set of friends who welcome Mac on varying levels due to Cash’s introduction and tacit approval. One of these friends is someone Mac already knows and is startled to find at Hyde – Wesley Ayers (otherwise known as guyliner.)

The one thing that is disrupting her settling in to her new life at Hyde and complicating her home life at the Coronado is Owen. Although he is no longer physically a part of her life, in or out of the Narrows, he will not leave Mackenzie alone in her sleep. Every time she drifts off, Owen violently invades her dreams. In typical teenager fashion, Mac has decided to deal with this by not sleeping, and it is beginning to take its toll. Not only is she struggling with her studies and her relationships, she’s beginning to have difficulty with her job as a Keeper – including episodes where she is blacking out while in pursuit of rogue Histories.

To add to all of this, there has been a series of disturbing disappearances in town which have only one thing in common – the last person each victim sees is Mackenzie. Could it be the mysterious stalker (who appears to be Crew) who is causing these disappearances, or is something even more sinister afoot? Mackenzie must fight her way through multiple obstacles to uncover the truth – then she has overcome her biggest barrier – getting the people in power (especially Agatha) to believe her.

I thoroughly enjoyed this part of Mackenzie’s story. The characterization and pacing are significantly improved compared to The Archived (which was quite good in it’s own right.) In addition to only having to elaborate upon the significant world building that was necessarily a part of the first book, this sequel benefits from fewer flashback episodes. We spend more time with ‘Mackenzie of the present’ which greatly improves the flow of the story. As she grows older and must branch further out into the world, we see the complications that a life serving The Archive involves, and we begin to see it take the same toll on her relationships that it took on Da’s. The plot is complex and detailed, and so is Mackenzie’s character. It is hugely enjoyable, a completely satisfying addition to the Mackenzie cannon. I would strongly recommend it to anyone who has read The Archived.

*TLT is delighted to be a part of Victoria Schwab’s blog tour for The Unbound. This review is based on a free electronic ARC received by the reviewer (Robin.) The Unbound will be released this Tuesday, January 28th. Go get it from your local bookstore, or order it online!

Cybils Book Review: The Archived by Victoria Schwab

I am reviewing this book as part of the Cybils 2013

Let’s get right to the point: I LOVED this book.  It was a unique concept, delivered beautifully.  And it plucked every I miss Buffy heart-string I own, which is a lot.

“Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.

Each body has a stroy to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read.  The dead are called Histories, and the vast ream in which they rest is the Archive.” – Book Jacket Copy

Mackenzie Bishop has always wanted to be a Keeper, like her beloved Da.  So when he passes on, he chooses her as his successor.  Her job is dangerous, to track down lost Histories in the Narrows (the space between the Archive and our world) before they make it across.  Losing Da was hard enough, but when her younger brother is plucked too young from this world, Mac’s family can’t cope.  Hoping a change of scenery will help them forget, Mac’s family moves into a hotel.  A hotel with secrets and memories and Histories that want out into the real world.

The Archived is a beautiful exploration of what it means to be both living and dead, and how we can sometimes be in both places at once.  It is a haunting, melancholy read that drips with grief and ripples with the promise of magic.  It is a gentle reminder that even though it is hard, we must find a way to let go and move on because holding on can break the things around – and inside – of you: family, friendships, and yes – even your spirit or your mind.

Mac is a magnificently complex character; lost, aching, hiding secrets, striving to be strong and fierce.  Her grief was real and palpable, her temptation to take her brother’s History from the archive understandable, and her fierceness in the face of all of what she was going through heartbreaking and at times inspiring.

There are flashback scenes that help us understand the role of the Keeper and paint a rich portrait of a truly moving relationship between a young girl and her grandfather.  I always give bonus points for strong, healthy multi-generational relationships. 

There is action, suspense, mystery, a little bit of romance potential . . . definitely recommended.  And, obviously, it takes its rightful place among my ongoing YA Lit for Buffy Fans list 1 and list 2.