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The Next #SVYALit Project Hangout: Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A. S. King

Special Guest A. S. King: Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future, plus Bleed Like Me by Christa Desir and Perfectly Good White Boy by Carrie Mesrobian
Date: November 19th (Noon Eastern, 11 A.M. Central)

Confirmed Guests: A. S. King (forthcoming 2014 and 2015 title), Christa Desir, Carrie Mesrobian

Publisher’s Description:  


Graduating from high school is a time of limitless possibilities—but not for Glory, who has no plan for what’s next. Her mother committed suicide when Glory was only four years old, and she’s never stopped wondering if she will eventually go the same way…until a transformative night when she begins to experience an astonishing new power to see a person’s infinite past and future. From ancient ancestors to many generations forward, Glory is bombarded with visions—and what she sees ahead of her is terrifying.

A tyrannical new leader raises an army. Women’s rights disappear. A violent second civil war breaks out. And young girls vanish daily, sold off or interned in camps. Glory makes it her mission to record everything she sees, hoping her notes will somehow make a difference. She may not see a future for herself, but she’ll do everything in her power to make sure this one doesn’t come to pass.

In this masterpiece about freedom, feminism, and destiny, Printz Honor author A.S. King tells the epic story of a girl coping with devastating loss at long last—a girl who has no idea that the future needs her, and that the present needs her even more.

Karen’s Thoughts:

Well, I loved this book. It comes out on October 14th so please get a copy and read it. We’ll be talking with A. S. King – I promise I will try not to cry, I have cried every time I meet her because her writing speaks to my soul.

Also, we’ll be talking about Bleed Like Me (out 10/7) and Perfectly Good White Boy (out 10/1) as well. So read those! 

This is What Happened When The Tween Read EVERYBODY SEES THE ANTS by A. S. King

I am an avid and vocal A. S. King fan and The Tween lives in my home so she is well aware of this. In fact, she recently got a chance to meet my favorite author and got some signed books of her own. But then an interesting thing happened, you see she ASKED me if she could read them. This was an odd thing to me for a couple of reasons.

Like her, I was an avid reader growing up. I never asked for permission to read a book, I just read it. It never even occurred to me to ask. And no one ever asked me what I was reading. So in that moment I had a weird wrestling of Librarian Mom – who was like, read what you want, read everything, go, do it – and Mom Mom – who was like, um, well, you’re a very sensitive soul and maybe you should wait a couple of years. In truth, I wish she hadn’t asked.

But then one day last week she came to me again and asked if she could read EVERYBODY SEES THE ANTS and I said yes.

She is about halfway through at this point and is loving it; not that I had any doubts. But another interesting happened when she came one day and was talking to me about the book. 

EVERYBODY SEES THE ANTS is about many things, but an important part of the story involves the main character’s grandfather, who was drafted and never returned from the Vietnam War and the emotional impact that has on him and his family. And my daughter, being only 12, doesn’t really know a lot about the Vietnam War, or war in general, or about the draft. And this was another one of those moments when I was reminded how important it is for us to talk with younger generations about history and politics.

So she says something to me about how she is glad that she can’t be drafted and I started talking to her about how the year I graduated high school, we went to war with Iraq and they had started talking about the draft. I told her about how afraid I was that my brother would get drafted.

Then I told her about the history of women in the military and that I thought that one day, if they ever re-instated the draft, they probably would draft women. And yes, as the mom of little girls this thought terrifies me, but as a feminist I can’t help but think it is only fair.

That’s Us Meeting A. S. King on the Right!

And through this all she kept talking about how awful war must be, so I talked to her about how the year she was born we went to war with Iraq and Afghanistan and how we have been at war the entirity of her life. She wasn’t aware of it, but we have never NOT been at war during the course of her lifetime. We talked about how because we lived here in America she was sheltered from the effects of those wars and what life was like for children in those countries where grown ups were using guns and bombs and drones to fight about their differences. We talked about how they were growing up in a world where loss was the expected norm, safety was never certain, and in some places children were asking and sometimes being forced to fight.

We talked about what it was like for children here whose parents had gone to other countries to fight those wars. I reminded her of her friend back home whose dad had served 2 tours and come back very different, very emotionally broken and how their family was no longer together. We talked about how there were children going to bed at night who didn’t get to talk to one of their parents every night and they went to bed praying that they would please come home soon.

In the back of EVERYBODY SEES THE ANTS there is a chart that shows how the draft worked. She spent a lot of time talking to me about it. About what she was reading in the story. About the main character and this family. We talked about what POW MIA means, which also comes up in the story.

She has talked a lot to me in the last few days about how truly unlucky this boy named Lucky is. And how mean some of the other characters are.

Signed Books are the Best!

On Friday night, we went to a baseball game. She took the book with her and she read it in the car, she read it at the game, and on the way home in the dark she tried to use the vanity mirror on the visor to read the book. And I am reminded every time I see her reading about the ways that stories can open our minds and open up dialogues that we may not always remember to talk to kids about important things they need to understand about the world they live in.

Take me out to the ballgame . . . so I can read!

At first, I protected my child from the facts of war because it was developmentally appropriate to do so. And then, we had just been at war for so long it became a kind of horrible background noise, it was something that was happening over there as life for many of us have gone on as normal here (outside of the very real effects of our failing economy). But as I spoke with her I remembered that burning fear in the back of my throat as I watched the TV news in 1990 and prayed to a God I was just coming to believe in that this would please not happen because whatever issues I may have had with my brother, I loved him and I certainly didn’t want that for him. And I remembered how important it was for us to understand life in other countries. And I remembered how important it was for her to understand the past and how it affects who we are today and where we may be heading in our future.

Watching my daughter read and love this book has been a heartwarming experience. But I have also appreciated the conversations that this book has prompted us to have. And that is one of the most important reasons why we read. Books make us think, they make us ask questions, and if we’re doing it right, they get us to talk to one another about the things that matter and move us.

Publisher’s Description of Everybody Sees the Ants by A. S. King:

Lucky Linderman didn’t ask for his life. He didn’t ask his grandfather not to come home from the Vietnam War. He didn’t ask for a father who never got over it. He didn’t ask for a mother who keeps pretending their dysfunctional family is fine. And he didn’t ask to be the target of Nader McMillan’s relentless bullying, which has finally gone too far.

But Lucky has a secret–one that helps him wade through the daily mundane torture of his life. In his dreams, Lucky escapes to the war-ridden jungles of Laos–the prison his grandfather couldn’t escape–where Lucky can be a real man, an adventurer, and a hero. It’s dangerous and wild, and it’s a place where his life just might be worth living. But how long can Lucky keep hiding in his dreams before reality forces its way inside?

Michael L. Printz Honor recipient A.S. King’s smart, funny and boldly original writing shines in this powerful novel about learning to cope with the shrapnel life throws at you and taking a stand against it. Published in 2011 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

This is What Happened When I Took the Tween to ALA Annual (a Thank You to Scholastic!)

The Tween: “I LOVE A Snicker of Magic!”

As you may know, this year I decided to take The Tween (basically 12 at this point) to the exhibit halls at ALA Annual 2014. Although I hemmed and hawed and hesitated about this decision, it turned out to be one of the greatest decisions ever.

On the whole, it really was a non-issue to be honest. She was amazed – as all book lovers surely are – to walk into the exhibit hall and just see the amazing glory of all the books. She was like a kid in a candy store, except – you know – here candy was books. I was so glad to be able to share this experience with her and will treasure it always.

As a librarian who believes in the 40 Developmental Assets, I recognize that simply showing up and giving kids the gift of attention can make all the difference in their lives. All they want is to know that they matter to adults, that we care. Which is why I was moved deeply by what happened in the Scholastic booth.

But let me back up for a moment. You see, because of the economy, we are one of the many families that have had to make dramatic life changes and these changes have dramatically impacted this child that I love so dearly. She had to leave her home, leave her friends, and start a new life in a new place. And the change has not been easy. Plus, like many in our situation, we struggle financially to make ends meet month to month. And to make matters worse, she has been on the hurtful end of some mean girl issues. The last two years have been challenging for this child that I love, and getting to witness her having this moment was a gift to me as her mother as much as it was to her. This is one of those moments that can make or break a kid, and the people at Scholastic really did everything right.

When we walked into the Scholastic booth at ALA, it was like a bright light shone on her and she became the star. One of the booth attendants, and I do wish I had thought to get her name, walked up to us both and looked directly at my Tween and started talking to her. For those of us that work with youth, this is a very important thing. Since I was the librarian and the adult present, this individual could have chosen to deal only with me, but she didn’t. She enthusiastically greeted my daughter and let her know that she mattered. This is what I always try to do with kids and teens in my library, even when their parents are present. I can not emphasize with you enough the importance of this. This moment was so validating for her.

The two of them then went on to have a conversation. The book A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd was on display and the Tween said it was her favorite book, and the attendant excitedly proclaimed that it was her favorite as well. The two of them then went on to have a very excited conversation about the book and why they loved it. She got to share her thoughts with an adult, and they mattered. She was heard.

Then this attendant just looked at my daughter and says, “We need to get you some books!” They then went through a very awesome Reader’s Advisory interview and my daughter walked out of the Scholastic booth with 3 ARCS. : The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare (which I assured her was like like having gold), Dash by Kirby Lawson (she really loves dogs), and Finding Ruby Starling by Karen Rivers. But really, she walked out with more than that, because she walked out with a positive experience in which an adult had taken the time to tell her that she mattered. And it all took less than 15 minutes.

During the course of that day The Tween also had the opportunity to meet one of her favorite authors, Raina Telgemeier. She was shy and awkward about the whole thing – The Tween, not Raina – but she also spent a lot of time the next 2 days talking about it. In fact, we went back the next day so she could buy and get a book signed for her best friend back in Ohio. I believe she is re-doing her room in Raina Telgemeier posters and book covers.

Another interesting thing happened in the Scholastic booth. I’m not going to lie, since I work with tweens and teens I am constantly paying attention to my daughter and her friends to find out what what they like and are interested in doing. It just makes me better at doing my job. So while we walked around the exhibit halls I paid close attention to what she liked and what she didn’t. In the Scholastic booth, she became obsessed with a book on display called Revenge of the Flower Girls. In fact, all day Saturday she asked me to go back and get a copy of that book for her, which led to a really interesting discussion about ARCs and published books. Since RotFG is already published, I promised her that when we returned home I would buy it for her. But still she longed for this title.

On Sunday, she wanted to go back in. And the first thing she said was that we needed to go back and get that book for her. We did walk by, but Scholastic was in the midst of a Maggie Steifvater signing which meant the booth was busy. But The Tween did not care, she really wanted me to go ask them about this book. It was interesting to see her just blink at the mention of Maggie Steifvater, a hugely popular author, and want to interrupt everyone for this book. I am a huge Maggie fan (I love The Raven Boys series), but she was moved by very different things. This too is an important reminder to us all that we all have different tastes and we need to work to reach all readers. But rest assured, next month after we recover from this trip I am going to order this book for her. She really, really, really wants it.

Before we went back into the Exhibit Hall on Sunday, the two of us attended the Scholastic Literary Brunch. Here, several authors – including the Tween’s beloved Raina Telgemeier – performed reader’s theater of 6 upcoming books: The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare, Sisters by Raina Telgemeir, If You’re Reading This by Trent Reedy, Kinda Like Brothers by Coe Booth, The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis and Love is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson . This was her first experience with Reader’s Theater and she loved it. And the book she chose to read first out of this bunch was Kinda Like Brothers by Coe Booth, which she says is “REALLY very good so far.”

A few other highlights from The Tween’s experience at ALA:

1. I want to make sure and point out the people at the Bloomsbury booth were equally awesome to The Tween on Sunday. They gave her a copy of a The Princess Academy: The Forgotten Sisters by Shannon Hale and repeated this same validating experience. Thank you!

2. She ran into author Edith Cohn just walking around and Cohn told her to go to the booth and ask for her upcoming book, Spirit’s Key. She is really looking forward to reading this one. I can not tell you enough how much I have found that meeting authors and having that personal connection to them can impact readers.

3. At the Penguin/Dial booth she reluctantly took an ARC of the book Life of Zarf: The Trouble of Weasels by Rob Harrell. However, she started reading it that day and LOVED it. She laughed out loud a lot while reading it and we had to take it away from her for a while to get her to spend time with the family. The takeaway for her: you really can’t judge a book by its cover, sometimes what you like will surprise you so try new and different things.

 4. When I ask her what her favorite parts of ALA were she said, “Listening to them act out their books, meeting Raina Telgemeier and getting all kinds of books!” She liked the Reader’s Theater so much I think I am going to try and do more if at author panels. It really made her want to read the books.

5. She also met and got books signed by A. S. King (whom I adore and consider one of my personal inspirations) and Bethany Crandell (Summer on the Short Bus). She is asking if she can read the A. S. King books now and Librarian Me (Read everything! Read what you want!) is wrestling with Mom Me, who thinks she should probably wait a couple of years. But one day she is going to treasure those signed books because she will read them and know how awesome they are! I did read Summer on the Short Bus yesterday to see if she could read it and decided that 1) It is okay for her to read at this age (it’s very PG, a little kissing and 1 mention of a condom) and 2) I really liked how the main character grew in the way she saw differently abled people and I thought it was very entertaining and important at the same time.

Take 5: 5 Books Coming Soon That YOU MUST READ

So I read, a lot. Sometimes 3 to 5 books a week. These are some books that I have read recently that I think are so spectacularly good that everyone should read them. Yes, that means you. Some of these you have heard me mention frequently on Twitter. Others, I have been holding my bubbling excitement in with tremendous amount of effort. But I can hold it in no longer, because you definitely want to add these to your TBR piles.

Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn

Publisher’s Description: Two years ago, sixteen-year-old Jamie Henry breathed a sigh of relief when a judge sentenced his older sister to juvenile detention for burning down their neighbor’s fancy horse barn. The whole town did. Because Crazy Cate Henry used to be a nice girl. Until she did a lot of bad things. Like drinking. And stealing. And lying. Like playing weird mind games in the woods with other children. Like making sure she always got her way. Or else.

But today Cate got out. And now she’s coming back for Jamie.

Because more than anything, Cate Henry needs her little brother to know the truth about their past. A truth she’s kept hidden for years. A truth she’s not supposed to tell.

Trust nothing and no one as you race toward the explosive conclusion of this gripping psychological thriller from the William C. Morris Award-winning author of Charm & Strange.

Karen’s Thoughts:
This is a masterful psychological thriller. The ending floored me, in fact after I finally picked my jaw up off the floor I stood and applauded Kuehn for making some very bold storytelling choices. I can not stress enough what an engaging read this is. You know from the description that things are not what they seem, and to be honest I thought some very different things were happening then what was happening. There are some epic twists and turn here, and the tension is superb.  Kuehn won the 2014 Morris Award for Charm & Stranger for a reason, girl can write and Complicit does not let the reader down. Pair this with Scowler by Daniel Kraus for some great psychological thriller action.

Publishes June 2014 from St. Martin’s. ISBN: 9781250044594

Servants of the Storm by Delilah S. Dawson


Publisher’s Description: A year ago Hurricane Josephine swept through Savannah, Georgia, leaving behind nothing but death and destruction — and taking the life of Dovey’s best friend, Carly. Since that night, Dovey has been in a medicated haze, numb to everything around her.

But recently she’s started to believe she’s seeing things that can’t be real … including Carly at their favorite cafe. Determined to learn the truth, Dovey stops taking her pills. And the world that opens up to her is unlike anything she could have imagined.

As Dovey slips deeper into the shadowy corners of Savannah — where the dark and horrifying secrets lurk — she learns that the storm that destroyed her city and stole her friend was much more than a force of nature. And now the sinister beings truly responsible are out to finish what they started.

Dovey’s running out of time and torn between two paths. Will she trust her childhood friend Baker, who can’t see the threatening darkness but promises to never give up on Dovey and Carly? Or will she plot with the sexy stranger, Isaac, who offers all the answers — for a price? Soon Dovey realizes that the danger closing in has little to do with Carly … and everything to do with Dovey herself.
Karen’s Thoughts:
I actually read this book sometime last year for no other reason than it had the most amazing cover ever. Yep, I too judge a book by it’s cover. This is some seriously creepy – and I mean that in the most amazing way – southern Gothic horror. The beginning part, where we learn about the poverty of the area, meet our main characters, and experience the storm: that is some amazing writing. And then you start learning about the way that demons kind of undulate under every part of this town – wicked cool. So descriptive, so haunting, so mesmerizing. The way that the author uses the lore of demons to undergird this entire world, an epically cool twist. And the way that the humans interact with the demons, which involves seriously gross things, will blow readers minds. There is an entire scene at a “amusement park” which will keep you awake at night and make you seriously reconsider your summer plans to visit your local carnivals.
Publishes in August 2014 from Simon Pulse. ISBN: 9781442483781
Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty by Christine Heppermann

Publisher’s Description: Every little girl goes through her princess phase, whether she wants to be Snow White or Cinderella, Belle or Ariel. But then we grow up. And life is not a fairy tale.

Christine Heppermann’s collection of fifty poems puts the ideals of fairy tales right beside the life of the modern teenage girl. With piercing truths reminiscent of Laurie Halse Anderson and Ellen Hopkins, this is a powerful and provocative book for every young woman. E. Lockhart, author of We Were Liars, calls it “a bloody poetic attack on the beauty myth that’s caustic, funny, and heartbreaking.”

Cruelties come not just from wicked stepmothers, but also from ourselves. There are expectations, pressures, judgment, and criticism. Self-doubt and self-confidence. But there are also friends, and sisters, and a whole hell of a lot of power there for the taking. In fifty poems, Christine Heppermann confronts society head on. Using fairy tale characters and tropes, Poisoned Apples explores how girls are taught to think about themselves, their bodies, and their friends. The poems range from contemporary retellings to first-person accounts set within the original tales, and from deadly funny to deadly serious. Complemented throughout with black-and-white photographs from up-and-coming artists, this is a stunning and sophisticated book to be treasured, shared, and paged through again and again.
Karen’s Thoughts:
I read this book for one simple reason: A. S. King said this book was so good she blurbed it. That speaks volumes to me. These poems are so amazing and the perfectly capture a lot of what teens think and feel about things like body image, cultural messaging, and more. They kind of take the tone and conceit of fairy tales, make them into poems, and use these poems to discuss things like periods and anorexia . . . The poems are haunting with their incisive look at what it means to be a girl in today’s world. For example, a poem entitled “Sweet Nothings” ends with the line:
How stupid that all I have to do
is grow two squishy lumps and
I’m man’s best friend
All I can say is, these poems are amazing. Read them.
Publishes in September 2014 from Greenwillow Books. ISBN: 9780062289599

Bleed Like Me by Christa Desir

Publisher’s Description: From the author of Fault Line comes an edgy and heartbreaking novel about two self-destructive teens in a Sid and Nancy-like romance full of passion, chaos, and dyed hair.

Seventeen-year-old Amelia Gannon (just “Gannon” to her friends) is invisible to almost everyone in her life. To her parents, to her teachers-even her best friend, who is more interested in bumming cigarettes than bonding. Some days the only way Gannon knows she is real is by carving bloody lines into the flesh of her stomach.

Then she meets Michael Brooks, and for the first time, she feels like she is being seen to the core of her being. Obnoxious, controlling, damaged, and addictive, he inserts himself into her life until all her scars are exposed. Each moment together is a passionate, painful relief.

But as the relationship deepens, Gannon starts to feel as if she’s standing at the foot of a dam about to burst. She’s given up everything and everyone in her life for him, but somehow nothing is enough for Brooks-until he poses the ultimate test.

Bleed Like Me is a piercing, intimate portrayal of the danger of a love so obsessive it becomes its own biggest threat.

Karen’s Thoughts:
I know you are thinking to yourself, but Karen, you are biased because you are working with Christa on the #SVYALit Project. I have a personal rule that is very easy to follow: Because I want my site to be a reputable site, I have to be honest about my reviews. Here’s the deal, after finishing Bleed Like Me I emailed Christa and basically said, please don’t take this the wrong way but this book is soooo much better than Fault Line. And it is. Christa has created a well developed character study into the life of one girl and the very unhealthy relationship she gets involved in. This is a must read for Ellen Hopkins fans; all the gritty reality but in prose. It is very edgy and mature, make no mistake about that, but it is hands down a perfect look into the complexities of how and why people get into the most dysfunctional relationships. It is also a profound look at what are sometimes considered the murkier areas of sexual consent; namely, if a boy uses guilt and manipulation to get a girl to consent, how consensual is it really? This is also a very compelling look at family and identity and how changing family dynamics can impact how we see ourselves fitting into the universe.

Publishes in October 2014 from Simon Pulse. ISBN: 9781442498907

Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future by A. S. King

Publisher’s Description:

Graduating from high school is a time of limitless possibilities—but not for Glory, who has no plan for what’s next. Her mother committed suicide when Glory was only four years old, and she’s never stopped wondering if she will eventually go the same way…until a transformative night when she begins to experience an astonishing new power to see a person’s infinite past and future. From ancient ancestors to many generations forward, Glory is bombarded with visions—and what she sees ahead of her is terrifying.

A tyrannical new leader raises an army. Women’s rights disappear. A violent second civil war breaks out. And young girls vanish daily, sold off or interned in camps. Glory makes it her mission to record everything she sees, hoping her notes will somehow make a difference. She may not see a future for herself, but she’ll do everything in her power to make sure this one doesn’t come to pass.

In this masterpiece about freedom, feminism, and destiny, Printz Honor author A.S. King tells the epic story of a girl coping with devastating loss at long last—a girl who has no idea that the future needs her, and that the present needs her even more.

Karen’s Thoughts:
My love for A. S. King is so deep and profound at this point that I go into each new book with a mixture of both anticipation and anxiety. My fear is that one day I won’t like one of her books and then I won’t know how to order my universe. But today is not that day! I freaking loved this book. In many ways, Glory O’Brien is reminiscent to me of Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith. How you ask? It has an interesting “friendship” – in this case a female one – and it juxtaposes alternating contemporary fiction (King truly captures the teenage voice) with some very cool speculative fiction elements. Glory O’Brien is a fascinating character and she perfectly captures that moment of transition when teens are about to graduate high school and they think, holy crap what now? Her journey of self discovery is authentic, sincere, and resonates. This book was full of quotes that teens will latch onto as personal mantras. And I sincerely love that it is unabashedly feminist in the things O’Brien says to both herself and to the universe around her. This is a journey of self discovery and it was an enlightening joy to take it with this character. This may be my favorite King title yet.

Publishes in October 2014 from Little, Brown. ISBN: 9780316222723

I downloaded eArcs of all of these books on Edelweiss.

Sunday Reflections: Imagining Others Complexly (by Robin)

I have to admit, I’ve been really discouraged lately. All of the recent events in Washington DC, with the roll out of the Affordable Care Act website and the government shutdown, with it’s corresponding misinformation and lack of information, bringing our country up to the very brink of default for no particular reason, etc., has really caused me to question the direction our country is taking. I feel like we should be…beyond this? Maybe it’s just me.

In terms of the healthcare ‘debate’, I have a difficult time understanding how people can NOT see how this will benefit everyone. Yes, it might make your insurance costs or your taxes go up (slightly). But, in the long run, it will decrease the amount we pay for healthcare because we wont be subsidizing emergency care for people who are unable to pay. If everyone has access to regular preventative care, fewer people will need to access emergency care. People in general will be healthier, productivity should go up, the amount of people who rely on disability will go down. It’s a win-win.

I feel the same way about education spending, and not just because I work in public education. I look at my own state with it’s recent cuts to education funding, especially to our once flagship More at 4 program and wonder, “Do people not see how a (relatively) small investment now will save us SO MUCH in the future?” Forget the fact that it’s the right thing to do. The simple fact that it is so much more of a drain to our economy to have an undereducated populace, in terms of financial support, lack of productivity, and expenditures on incarceration, should be enough to convince people of the importance of fully funding public education.

And then a couple of things happened. First, there was this simple exchange I had with someone I follow on Twitter:

Once I got over my initial bout of flabbergasted rage over people’s inability to understand the complexities of living in poverty, I began to really think about the problem. What is really at the root of this lack of understanding? In simple terms, it’s generally attributable to a lack of ability to imagine others complexly (a concept I first encountered through one of John Green’s Vlogbrothers videos.) It’s a failing I encounter daily, even within myself, and I make a concerted effort to do it.

Second, there was the widely reported study on the impact of reading (literary) fiction on our capacity for empathy. If you’ve missed it, I would start here with NPR’s coverage. But, you can also find information about it here, or here, or here. Choose your poison.

And what I realized was, “This is how I can make a change.” Because that’s what it really boils down to for me. When I get really discouraged about the state of our world what I really need is a way to make a change. Every time we make an impact, no matter how small, is a force for good in our world. That’s what I have to hold on to on a daily basis.

If you’re looking for a place to start, I highly recommend the novels of A.S. King and Laurie Halse Anderson. I was recently able to procure an electronic advanced reader copy of Anderson’s upcoming The Impossible Knife of Memory, and I have to say it completely blew my mind. I’ve heard, over and over, about the impact of Post Traumatic Stress on military personnel and their families, but this book made it REAL for me. In our efforts to promote literacy in our youth population, we will hopefully also impact their capacity for empathy and their ability to imagine others complexly.

Her Pen is Her Superpower: Meet A. S. King, my hero

Her pen is her superpower, A. S. King

I told you yesterday, this week is heroes and villains week.  So let me introduce you to one of my heroes: author A. S. King.  King is a phenomenal writer.  And she wrote a book that changed me; made me really exam what I thought about an issue and changed the way I choose to love.  That story is here.  Today she is talking to us about her new book, Reality Boy.

Reality Boy is the story of an angry teen, Gerald.  The anger started when he was 5 and his family starred on a reality TV show, a type of Supernanny.  It is years later, and people are still judging him by the lies that were told and the way his family was edited to appear on the show.  Reality Boy is a book about looking underneath the surface to see the truth.  It is a book about families and the lies we tell each other.  And it is the story about Gerald’s attempts to go beyond his anger and find himself.  It is, in a word, amazing.  

So let’s talk to one of my heroes, shall we.  

Karen: How do you feel about reality TV and how did it influence Reality Boy?

King: I do not watch TV. Not reality TV. Not the news…though I will turn on the weather if a snowstorm is due. And lately, I’ve been watching a few baseball games. I don’t have a real opinion of reality TV, but I do know it’s not real. Even the show my husband worked on in the early 90s—a furniture restoration show—would make it look like the two stars of the show did the restoring, but my husband really did that part, step-by-step, behind the scenes.

REALITY BOY was more influenced by the statistic that one in four children are suffering abuse of some sort or have suffered some sort of trauma. I’m not sure why I was thinking of reality TV at that point, but I may have seen something on Twitter about a kid on reality TV and I wondered how many of these kids we watch for entertainment are dealing with other things behind the scenes.

I know that’s probably not the answer most people expect, but it’s the truth, so it’s all I got!

Karen: If you were going to cast yourself in a reality show – and it can be real or one you make up – what show would it be and why?

King: Oh. Wow. I’d be in a show called Where’s Amy? and it would be about how no one can find me anywhere and it would star someone else because there is no way I would be on reality TV. I used to say I’d do Survivor, because my husband and I would kick ass as a team considering we met teaching survival skills and spent 10 years self sufficient, but yeah…no. I wouldn’t.

Karen: Many writers refer to you as their inspiration, who are some of your writing inspirations?

King: I just got to see one of my writing inspirations live at Philly Free Library last week. Salman Rushdie—Hoo boy, do his books inspire me. Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Hemingway. Sylvia Plath. Marge Piercy. Tom Robbins. Steinbeck, Rumi, Walt Whitman. Good gods, Karen. I could go on for days.

Karen: When they are writing your obituary, how do you hope you will be remembered?

King: BONUS POINTS for the most morbid question I’ve ever been asked.

I guess I’d want to be remembered as someone who was nice and who tried to help other people be nice, too.

I know that’s short and sweet, but really, once you’re dead, I think that’s probably the nicest thing that can be said about a person.
Some final thoughts from Karen:  A. S. King is one of the kindest people I have ever met, and she truly does write in part because she wants to help give voice to those that need it.  She writes about truth, all the glorious, messy, uncomfortable truth of our lives. Gah, I was going to try and write this post without being supergushy.  But I love her; her skill and what she brings to the literature.  Go people, read her.  Read all the books. 
P.S., Every time I pass a yellow flower, I still think of her.
Reality Boy by A. S. King comes out tomorrow, October 22nd, from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
This is what people are saying about it:

“Heart-pounding and heartbreaking…This is no fairy-tale romance, but a compulsively readable portrait of two imperfect teens learning to trust each other.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred)

“This is a story about healing, and although Gerald stumbles as he takes his first steps, his candor invites sympathy from the first page.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred)

“King’s trademarks–attuned first-person narrative, convincing dialogue, realistic language, and fitting quirkiness–connect effectively in this disturbing, yet hopeful novel.”—SLJ (starred)

“We all know at least one teen who needs a book like this; I didn’t know I needed it until I turned the last page.”

“The TMZ-level draw of the premise will definitely pull readers in, but they’ll find a surprising amount to relate to in this smart and sympathetic story about breaking free from the world’s expectations.” —The Bulletin

“Reality Boy showcases King’s talent, telling a story that is as much about parental depression and denial as it is about teen rage. It’s also about first love, celebrity, therapy and finding your own narrative despite the story your family–and sometimes the world–tells about you.”—Shelf Awareness

“A.S. King at her best, and maybe then some. This book is tough and funny and smart as hell.”
—Chris Crutcher, author of Period 8 and Whale Talk

“Fearless and brilliant, a seething pressure cooker of a masterpiece.”
—Andrew Smith, author of Winger and The Marbury Lens

“REALITY BOY is a powerhouse of insight and empathy toward the people who cruise the fringes of acceptable behavior. A.S. King takes all kinds of risks and every single one pays off. Highly recommended.”
—Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of ROT & RUIN and FIRE & ASH

“Reality Boy is A.S. King’s best work to date. Touching and teeth-clenchingly emotional, this story is an important reminder that behind every reality show…may be a totally different reality.”
—Jennifer Brown, author of Hate List and Thousand Words

(I totally copied and pasted all these gushing reviews from the book page, because they are right and say exactly the things I want to say about the book.)

More: Behind the Scenes of Reality TV


The #bestYAdad list is a present to my husband.  That’s right, I’m super cheap – but creative.  You see, The Mr. is an excellent father.  I pick ’em good I tell ya.  But also, I was reading Eleanor and Park, which does make this list, and was so impressed with the dad I though to myself: “Self, what other great YA dads are out there?”  So I crowd sourced the answer.

Here are some of the nominees . . .

#bestYAdad Nominees

Kimberly Alberts: Meghan, Hans Huberman from The Book Thief is my favorite book dad.

Melinda Bruce: Luke isn’t Clary’s dad, in City of Bones, but he’s close enough and he’s great.

Richa Parande: Anna’s dad in Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins

Tracy Weikel: I’ll always love Matthew Cuthbert. Other favorite YA lit dads include Arthur Weasley and Atticus Finch (of course), Sam from Aristotle and Dante Discover the Universe, and Denny Hall (If I Stay).

Erinn Batykefer: Love the dads in Lola and the Boy Next Door kicked ass

Melinda Bruce: Luke isn’t Clary’s dad, in City of Bones, but he’s close enough and he’s great.

Barbara Lowe: Mr. Austin in Madeleine L’Engle’s books about the Austin family.

Anonymous: The #bestYAdad that I immediately thought of is Bobby in The First Part Last by Angela Johnson. Being a teen father is HARD!  

Anonymous: One of the #bestyadads is Charlie Swan. #Twilight.

Kym: Dante’s dad in Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. Love him!! 


Atticus Finch
To Kill a Mockingbird
by Harper Lee

Without a doubt Atticus Finch is the epitome of the wise, loving, patient dad.  I thought it was interesting that so many considered this book YA, and if it was published today it would probably be published as YA.  To me, it is sheer perfection.     

Atticus Finch: “The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”

Ken Deitz
Please Ignore Vera Dietz
A. S. King 

Vera Dietz is struggling with the death of her former best friend who screwed her over big time.  To say she is in a bad place emotionally is to put it mildly.  Ken Dietz is an amazing dad who is raising his daughter all on his home – will the help of some flowcharts.  Flowcharts can help you answer all of life’s great questions.  My favorite is the Ken Dietz Face Your Shit Flowchart.  

Ken Dietz: “the trick is remembering that you are the boss of you.”

Denny Hall
If I Stay
Gayle Forman

One of the things I loved most about this book, outside of its hands down just amazing writing, was that it contained such a beautiful, healthy and loving intact family.  Both of the parents are active, engaged.  Denny Hall is a fine choice. 

Denny Hall: “Alice Cooper? Have we no standards? At least sing the Ramones.”
Park’s Dad
Eleanor and Park
by Rainbow Rowell

Park’s dad does exactly the right think in the moment that matters most.  In this one act he helps save a girl, demonstrates wisdom about the wrongness in some men, and expresses faith in Park.  I never knew that the act of handing over your car keys could speak such a powerful message.

I can’t quote the dad from Eleanor and Park here because in a rare moment of responsible library user behavior, I returned the book.  Possibly even on time. Maybe.

Matthew Cuthbert
Anne of Green Gables
by L M Montgomery

Oh, Matthew.  You sir, are a beautiful man.  You took in this red headed wonder, accepted her for who she was, loved her, and gave her the puffiest sleeves ever.  Matthew Cuthbert is Da Bomb as we once would say.  You stood up in the moments that mattered.  Honestly, I never would have thought of him when thinking about making this list, because I was thinking more recent titles, but once everyone started nominating him I thought, “Of course!”

Matthew Cuthbert:
“I never wanted a boy. I only wanted you from the first day. Don’t ever change. I love my little girl. I’m so proud of my little girl.”

What about the worst?

 Kelly Jensen (no relation, thanks for asking) over at Stacked has a list of the worst YA dads.  She technically calls her list Complicated Father Relationships, but some of those dads are hands down the worst dads ever imaginable, like the dads from Scowler and This is Not a Test.  The dad from Flawed also fits on this list.  In fact, I think it is a lot easier to think of bad examples then good ones.  Either way, share your best and worst YA dads in the comments. 

And Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there. 

Behind the Scenes of Reality TV

Take a moment and sit in front of your TV and flip channels.  Notice a pattern?  The channels are full of shows called “Reality TV”.  Dance Moms, which makes my skin crawl and I can’t figure out why children’s services isn’t involved.  Supernanny.  Wife Swap (seriously, who would do that?).  Honey Boo Boo.

If this is a slice of reality, I think we should be afraid.  Be very afraid.  Of course, most of us have figured out that it is NOT in fact reality.  These shows are edited, sometimes partially scripted, and manipulated in ways to meet standard formulas.  There must be drama.  And tears, tears are good (apparently).

I recently had a conversation with a dance instructor at a Dallas dance studio who gave me some inside scoop on Dance Moms.  The studio she works at was the first dance studio scouted to be on the Dance Moms program.  The owner met with the teachers and producers and discussed what kinds of roles they wanted to fill.  In the end, this particular dance studio chose not to be involved because they didn’t want their friends and neighbors seeing them act like that on TV, even though they knew it would be fake.  Their reputations were more important to them then the money, fame and face time on TV.

Many of our kids, however, don’t know how fake so called reality TV is.  But guess what, there is a book for that.  More than one, actually.

Chomp by Carl Hiaasen

Chomp is a middle grade fiction title about Wahoo (named after the wrestler, not the fish) who lives in Florida with his father, who is an animal wrangler.  There are monkeys, snakes, and a large alligator (oh my!) named Alice.  They are in serious financial trouble when they are offered the job that might save them: providing animals for the “reality” show Expedition Survival.  It stars Derek Badger (not his real name) who is forced to find ways to survive in a variety of perilous adventures (that are not at all actually perilous).  Along the way they meet Tuna, a young girl with a black eye from her father.  She joins them on the shoot in the Everglades.  Soon her father shows up with a gun and everyone is now trying to survive – for real.

I just finished listening to this on audio and it is one of my favorite audios to date.  I was surprised to find that it was narrated by Mr Dawson himself, James Van Der Beek, and he did a pretty good job.  It helps that he had excellent material to work with; Chomp is funny, heartwarming, adventurous, and teeming with great, rich characters.  I loved how clearly it showed the contrast between who Derek Badger was onscreen and what a spoiled, worthless tool he was behind the scenes.  I also loved how clearly it demonstrated how the screen product was manipulated, from showing the scripts to discussing how scenes actually occurred and how they could edit them to make it appear that something completely different had happened.

I think this is a must read for all Tweens so that they can better understand how entertainment is manipulated, and it helps that it is a brilliantly fun read.

Reality Boy by A. S. King

The reality boy in Reality Boy by A. S. King is one Gerald Faust, a very angry young man.  The anger started when his family began to appear on a television show that is basically a version of Supernanny.  Twelve years later he can’t escape the perception people have of him, or his nickname “The Crapper”.  That’s right folks, he would crap on things as an expression of his anger.  People are still judging him and teasing him for something he did when he was 5 years old.

Reality Boy is a brilliant and moving look at one young man’s anger that simmers just below the surface and his attempts to control it.  If you didn’t know Gerald it would be easy to hate him; distant, angry, withdrawn.  But we do get to know Gerald, what goes on inside his head and the behind the scenes things that led to his barely controlled rage, and you love him.  He is a broken young man, and the realization of why exactly that is makes for a profound and moving read.  What goes on in this young man’s house when the cameras aren’t rolling and how it is all manipulated for TV will blow your mind, break your heart, and then make you swear off reality TV for eternity (which you should probably do any way.)

Reality Boy doesn’t come out until October, but YOU MUST READ IT. Why?

1) Because it is A. S. King book and she is brilliant. She does not pay me to say that.  In fact, I am probably on her personal watch list somewhere for my stalkerish ways.

2) Because we all know a lot of angry young men, and she gives them voice and soft edges underneath and it is important that we remember that something happened in their lives to make them that way.  Their something is probably not being screwed on a reality TV show, but they have their own something.

3) Because it gives keen insight into the behind the scenes of TV production and it is so important that our teens understand what is happening, how the scenes – and the audience – are being manipulated.  There is a great ethical discussion to be had about what we put on TV, how we put it out there, and how we respond to it – especially if it involves children.  Children can’t really consent to what is happening, they don’t have the legal rights, they don’t have the intellectual capacity to understand the short and long term ramifications.  I basically already did, but after reading this book I refuse to ever watch a so-called reality show that involves children (though I don’t reality watch much reality TV to begin with, I’m more of a Buffy/Firefly/Doctor Who kind of girl).

Tweens and teens of any age can read Chomp, it is safe and delightful while being eye-opening.  King writes for an older audience and her main character is an angry teen boy, so there is language.  Though very different in approach and tone, they are both 5 star books that need to be read.  Reality Boy is powerful, thought provoking, and compelling.  Chomp is fun, but the second act does have a little meat to it as it discusses how Tuna lives in an abusive home and her daddy chases them around the Everglades with a gun.

Go further: As a hands on activity, I think you could use your smart phone or tablet to have tweens and teens shoot some of the classroom discussion on these titles, then use editing software to show how they can be edited to make it look like something completely different happened.  They would get a real life look at the behind the scenes process and learn some tech skills in the process.

Take 5: Amelia Bloomer Project and Feminist Books

If you’re looking for feminist books, you definitely want to check out The Amelia Bloomer Project.  Sponsored by the Feminist Task Force of the American Library Association, this committee of librarians creates a recommended bibliography every year of new books that have significant feminist content for youth ages birth through 18.  Being a booklist like the Rainbow Project, their process is open, and they post titles on their blog as they are nominated.  They also take field submissions as well. 

Scrolling through the titles that they currently have listed for the 2014 list (to be announced at the Midwinter Meeting in January 2014 at Philadelphia) I have to say my favorites so far are these:

Atwell, Mary Stewart. Wild Girls: A Novel. 2012. 288 p. Scribner, $25.00 (978-1451683271). Gr. 10 and up. 

Kate Riordan fears two things as she grows up in the small Appalachian town of Swan River: that she’ll be a frustrated townie forever or that she’ll turn into one of the mysterious and terrifying wild girls, killers who start fires and menace the community.

Molley, Aimee. However Long the Night: Molly Melching’s Journey to Help Millions of African Women and Girls Triumph. 2013. 272p. HarperOne, $25.99 (978-0062132765). Gr. 10-up. 

In However Long the Night, Aimee Molloy tells the unlikely and inspiring story of Molly Melching, an American woman whose experience as an exchange student in Senegal led her to found Tostan and dedicate almost four decades of her life to the girls and women of Africa.

King, A.S. Ask the Passengers.  2012. 393p.  Little Brown, $17.99 (978-0-316-19468-6). Gr. 10-up.

Astrid Jones desperately wants to confide in someone, but her mother’s pushiness and her father’s lack of interest tell her they’re the last people she can trust. Instead, Astrid spends hours lying on the backyard picnic table watching airplanes fly overhead. She doesn’t know the passengers inside, but they’re the only people who won’t judge her when she asks them her most personal questions . . . like what it means that she’s falling in love with a girl. 
We all know that Karen loves this book and says everyone should read it, right?

Brill, Amy. The Movement of Stars. 2013. 400p. Riverhead Books, $27.95 (978-1594487446). Gr. 10-up. 

A love story set in 1845 Nantucket, between a female astronomer and the unusual man who understands her dreams.

Abdi, Hawa. Keeping Hope Alive. Grand Central Publishing, 2013. 272p. $26.99 978-1-455-0376-6 

The moving memoir of one brave woman who, along with her daughters, has kept 90,000 of her fellow citizens safe, healthy, and educated for over 20 years in Somalia. 

What are your favorite books for young women?  Share with us in the comments.

Annotations from book descriptions on Goodreads.com

What happens at TLA stays at TLA. Well, until I write this blog post.

So, last weekend TLA happened. This was my second year attending TLA and it was incredible.  Here are 5 of my highlights and 5 of the titles I am looking forward to reading.


On Thursday, I had a couple of hours to kill and a bag full of stuffs, so I walked over to the parking garage to unload and figure out what my plan of action was. Suddenly, I got a cryptic text from my friend Stacy (from Girls in the Stacks): “Where are you?”  She then let me know that she was standing there talking to A. S. King (my hero).  So I texted her back, “I will be there in 5!”  I then proceeded to run down 9 flights of stairs, cross the street, and run through the exhibit hall to have the moment I have been waiting over a year to happen.  But there she stood – A. S. King.  I would like to say I totally kept my cool but the truth was, I was a dork.  She was very gracious about it.  And after she left, I broke down sobbing – although luckily it was in the Little, Brown booth.  Witnesses proclaimed that it was “cute”, but I think here they meant cute as a code word for “dorky”.  It does not matter because I MET A. S. KING.  Friends stood in line and got me a signed copy of her upcoming title (October) Reality Boy, which I have already finished reading.  That’s right, after being gone for 4 days I spent all day Saturday ignoring my children and not doing all the blog things I was supposed to do and read Reality Boy.  I am here to tell you that A. S. King has once again written an amazing, insightful book that I will gush about. This is also the story of how Stacy became my hero by making sure I got to meet A. S. King.

2. I Had Dinner with Mind Games author Kiersten White, Sweet Venom author Tera Lynn Childs, and Through Her Eyes author Jennifer Archer

Because of the superfab Naomi Bates at YA Books and More (we are going to start vlogging together about School/Public Library cooperation), I got invited to a Harper Collins dinner which involved a bunch of people from Harper Collins – and me apparently. I sat right next to Kiersten White (and this time managed not to cry thank you).  I really liked Mind Games and it was nice to get to talk to her about it. I also met Jennifer Archer, author of Through Her Eyes, and Tera Lynn Childs, author of Forgive My Fins and the Medusa Girls series. It was an amazing experience and I learned a lot about the publishing side of things.  We had a very interesting conversation about how there is a need for more books with MCs that are POC, but how they don’t tend to sell as well. It was enjoyable and informative. Also, yummy.

3.  A. S Howard reveals the cover to the sequel of Splintered, Unhinged.

Sometimes you have a moment of being in the right place at the right time.  That is what happened to me when I ended up being at the cover reveal of Unhinged, the sequel to Splintered.  I love the colors and the way the two covers work together.

4.  It’s Time for Tea in Texas

A special thanks to everyone who put together the Texas Tea, where I met a wide variety of my favorite authors and got to learn up their new or upcoming titles.  Pictures are Sharon Flake, who was a good sport and put on the mustache, John Corey Whaley, who is just adorable, Krissi Dallas, who always has a rockin’ presence, Tessa Gratton, who is very excited about her mythology inspired The Lost Sun coming out soon, and Lisa McMannon, who shared her inspiration for her book in the multi-author Infinity Ring series.  I also met Matt De La Pena who talked about growing up as a multi-racial young man and shared a short story he wrote for something called One Teen Story, a literary magazine for YA readers (which is new to me).

5. Writers are Readers!

Look, there’s Michael Buckely – author of the N.E.R.D.S series – reading Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson at TLA. It was so fun to run into authors who were gong to booths to try and get titles that they wanted to read.

And here are a few of the books that I heard about that I want to read

Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines: Described as “The Avengers meet The Walking Dead”.  This book is already out, but it is part of a 4 book series that hasn’t gotten enough publicity.  That tagline should make it easy to sell.

Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis: About a girl living in a post-apocalyptic world who must defend what little water she has.  Dystopian and environmental, a winning combination.

Counting by 7s by Holly Golberg Sloan: I ran into award winning author John Corey Whaley and THIS is the book that he was going to get an ARC for.  He says it is fabulous and should be a strong contender for the Newberry.

Winger by Andrew Smith: First, this book has the best cover ever. Seriously. Everyone who has read it raves. And A. S. King is a fan.

Infinityglass by Myra McEntire: Speaking of best covers ever. Is this not amazing?  I am a HUGE fan of the Hourglass series by Myra McEntire (as are my teens) and I can’t wait for the next installment.  If you haven’t read it yet, check it out.

How about you? What were your fave TLA highlights?  What upcoming titles are you looking forward to?

And did I mention – I met A. S. King!!!!!!