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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! 

Something Old, Something New: The Inner Lives of Teen Boys featuring Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas and Perfectly Good White Boy by Carrie Mesrobian

Something Old: Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas

In my early days as a YA librarian, one of the first books I saw “go viral” if you will, was Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas. Early YA was often thought of primarily as “coming of age” or “problem novels”, and they focused on an intimate examination of the inner lives of teens as they wrestled with real world problems. When Rats Saw God came out, it spoke to teen readers in very real ways and this book was passed from teen to teen to teen. Teens would come in asking for it by name. And it was stolen numerous times, much like the works of Ellen Hopkins are, and each time I replaced it because it was so popular I couldn’t not have it on my shelves.

Publisher’s Description:

“For Steve York, life was good. He had a 4.0 GPA, friends he could trust, and a girl he loved. Now he spends his days smoked out, not so much living as simply existing.

But his herbal endeavors — and personal demons — have lead to a severe lack of motivation. Steve’s flunking out, but if he writes a one-hundred-page paper, he can graduate.

Steve realizes he must write what he knows. And through telling the story of how he got to where he is, he discovers exactly where he wants to be….”

Karen’s Thoughts:

Rob Thomas went on to become the creator of the Veronica Mars series, which if you know anything about that series you know that Thomas writes wise, witty and often searing characters – this is no exception. Originally published in 1996, I still hear readers of YA lit talking a lot about this title that features a teenage boy just trying to get through his senior of high school with a broken heart. Which makes it a perfect older YA pairing for the very new . . .

Something New: Perfectly Good White Boy by Carrie Mesrobian

[Read more…]

#SVYALit Panel #3 Wrap Up: Brandy Colbert (POINTE), Courtney C. Stevens (FAKING NORMAL), Carrie Mesrobian (SEX & VIOLENCE) and Christa Desir (FAULT LINE)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=liG2yXdrZSs?rel=0]

#SVAYLit Project Google+ Hangout on Air with the author Brandy Colbert (POINTE), Courtney C. Stevens (FAKING NORMAL), Carrie Mesrobian (SEX & VIOLENCE) and moderated by Christa Desir (FAULT LINE). This is our third discussion as part of the #SVYALit Project, with an emphasis on the topic of consent, an issue that plays a very meaningful role in both POINTE and FAKING NORMAL. Below are some of the highlights that I have pulled out of the above recording of this virtual panel. I highly recommend that you watch the entire 1 hour video because it was a really powerful, thoughtful discussion that covered on topics like consent, blaming the victim and how we can reframe that, how girls are often taught by culture that they can’t say no, and the importance of having a wide variety of stories to represent the wide variety of experiences and responses out there. We also touch several times on how important it is to have positive stories/examples to help counteract the negative because in order for teens developing their sexual identities to develop healthy sexual identities, they have to know what both positive and negative experiences look like. It’s not enough to tell ourselves that no means no, we need to have examples and discussions of what yes looks like as well.


POINTE: Came out in April. 17 year old ballet dancer named Theo. Her best friend returns after having been kidnapped 4 years ago. This return creates a spiral of emotion as Theo realizes the truth of a lot of situations in her life.

FAKING NORMAL: Alexie and Bodie are both dealing with tragic circumstances. Through their relationship Alexie begins to face the truth of some sexual trauma in her past.

DISCUSSION OF CONSENT (starts at 4:03)

Christa is a Rape Victim Advocate, which frames her perspective. When she presents at schools there is always a lot of confusion about what rape is and what it is isn’t. The legal definition includes a note about “Conscious Consent”. This is the ICASA (Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault) that Christa references: http://www.icasa.org/home.aspx?PageID=500&.

Courtney C. Stevens (6:27) – It seems confusing because there seems to be a lot of gray areas. These three things are important:
1. Being of sound mind in some kind of way.
2. Mutual desire
3. Expressed mutual desire

Brandy (7:04) – Discussion in particular of the older person/teen person and the power dynamics that can come into play here. Both people need to be able to talk about it. This is a huge part of Theo’s story in POINTE.

Carrie Mesrobian: (10:00) – Discussing age of consent laws. Teens have a perception of themselves as grown up, they don’t realize they need protection. “You don’t realize the danger you could be in.” “I didn’t know what I should be afraid of.”

Theo was so concerned about being perceived as grown up and the man really grooms her very well, tapping into this need/desire. (11:25)


Things some survivors think:
“This is all I’m worth”
Every survivor has a unique experience, no one reacts the same. 

(12:30) – By not having an empowered voice you are not consenting.

The first thing women do is blame themselves. “I’m the one who didn’t say no.”

You keep working things out over a period time. You go back to the moment and think, “I could have done something.” But the truth is, you are going back to the wrong moment. But what about that moment when that guy decided he was going to do this to you.”  We must continually shift it back to the wrong choice the person made to hurt someone, and it is a conscious choice.

In domestic violence situations we tend to ask, why does she stay. What we should be asking is why does he abuse. (Or vice versa as the case may be.)


Teens don’t always know why they are doing the things they are doing.  It’s kind of baked into our culture that we don’t talk about why we do the things we do when it comes to sex. We don’t have a good cultural vocabulary or discussion to discuss the core foundation of why and how we have sex, so then when things go wrong we don’t have the core foundation to talk about that either.

So many times we don’t take the time to think about who we are and what we are okay with – and not okay with. We don’t know how to express ourselves sexually because it is such a taboo subject. Teens are asking these questions inside but no one wants to help them find healthy, realistic answers.


Brandy: “It was really important for me for Theo to have a positive sexual experience.” Brandy wanted to show the difference between the earlier abusive situation and this positive experience. 

Karen’s thoughts: One of the great things about POINTE is how Theo begins to slowly realize the truth about her previous relationship. She doesn’t initially realize how much it had tainted her self-perception and what she felt like she was worth. The positive scene is a game changing moment that helps her clarify so many things.


Teen: “How do I say No to alcohol?”
Courtney: “You’re going to need that word No for a lot of things. . . You get to say No to the things that you don’t want. People are born with a Yes in their pocket, they always say yes.”

Kissing scene in Faking Normal: A yes to this kiss was just as powerful as a yes to sex. She needed to be able to say Yes. Karen’s note: This is such am empowering scene.

But the truth is . . . Many people are taught not to say no, they are never empowered to say No. This can be more true for women. Carrie talks about this at 23:00. But girls who say no are taught they are being snotty or mean or called a “Bitch.” Being able to say No is “rinsed out of girls at an early age.”

(24:00) “Can I do this?” – asking this question instead of just assuming you can swoop in and do this.”

What part does alcohol and drugs play a part? Alcohol and drugs can impact one’s ability to make good decisions consenting to sex.

We feel like we have to add in a bunch of stuff to soften the blow when we say no, we don’t own our no. Teens needs to no that they have a right to say to all intimate encounters, even as Courtney mentions in kissing.


Courtney (29:00): Anytime there is victimology there is no such thing as canon work. Everyone’s experience is different, their reaction is different. Your story can be the story that they connect with. All books represent part of the spectrum of experience. Some people do add it as a plot device, and I’m not for that. But I think authentic experience matters to people. I want the opportunity to make a difference. “Every time a reader says this mattered to me, I’m becoming who I am supposed to be.”

Brandy (31:00): POINTE came in part because she thought about her experiences with older men when she was a teen and wondered, “what would happen if one of them pretended they were younger then they were”. You can tell the authenticity as opposed to when something is added for shock value or a plot device.

Christa (32:45): When people start talking about their history, so many people – men and women – can find situations when they were vulnerable. “Dodgy things have become normalized to us.” References Maureen Johnson blog post about the things that have happened to her (http://maureenjohnsonbooks.tumblr.com/post/79687199694/about-the-recent-events-concerning-youtube ). I also wrote a post about this (http://www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com/2012/12/what-its-like-for-girl-politics-of.html).
Every story is different in terms of what people have been exposed to and their level of vulnerability. These books speak to the shared history of a lot survivors.

Carrie (35:00): Talking to someone from Fluxx. “Do we still need coming out stories?” Yes, because that is always something that it going to be difficult for families to process and there are so many variables. People are starting to come out about their sexual abuse stories. We’ve been asked for so many years to not saying anything, to hold the shame of the culture of our shame inside of us. That does nothing good for women – women being a majority of the victims of sexual violence. We need a variety of stories because you never know what experience is going to reach out to someone. Some people will see themselves. We need more of that in YA. And we need more in general people wrestling with sex, what is good sex, because we can’t unpack what goes wrong about sex if we can’t talk about what goes right with sex.

Carrie (38:00): Tells the story of being with a boy who knew what he wanted and what an impression that made on her.

Christa (40:00): Tells a story about RT convention. There are a lot of people who will not take a book that has sex in it.

Brandy (41:00): Talking about sex in YA. As a teen, most of us read a lot of Danielle Steel, which of course has a lot of sex in them. When people are uncomfortable with the content of a book they tend to put it down. We need literature that tackles these subjects because we don’t always know what people around us are going through.

Courtney (43:00): The reality is that kids can just put down a YA book and go to the adult shelf and buy an adult book. But the other side is that parents care about their kids. We want responsible, but we also want responsible kids. 

Christa (45:00): I absolutely think parents can and should censor things for their kids, but not for my kids. I always start with, let’s have a conversation about this book.

Carrie (46:00): Everyone has sex and violence inside them. Reading helps us navigate that.

Karen (48:00): Here I discuss watching the show The Big Bang Theory with my pre-teen daughter. Whenever it became obvious that sex was going to come up, I would quickly change the channel. This made her have some confusing notion of what sex was – she thought kissing was sex – and she sensed my unease about the topic of sex and started to feel like it was a shameful topic. So I sat down and had a conversation with her where I told her that kissing is not sex, and there is nothing wrong or bad about sex, it just wasn’t something that kids really needed to be concerned with because they needed to be doing kid things. This made me realize how it important it was for kids and teens to have accurate information free of stigma and shame. We can’t ask teens to make informed choices about sex if they don’t fully understand what sex is and it isn’t. And we can’t expect them to develop into healthy sexual beings if we are constantly putting so much shame on the topic. You can talk to teens in informative ways about sex and that does not mean that they will decide to have sex. For example, most of us believe in educating our kids about drugs so they are not caught unawares, it seems like we should be doing the same about all important life issues, including sex.

Christa (49:00): When we build a culture of shame around sex we also are building a culture of shame where survivors can’t come forward. All the silence can be unhealthy. Sometimes in trying to protect our kids, we are making them easier to not be protect-able. I would rather have it in books where we can have a dialogue about it and present clear moments of consent so that they can understand what that looks like.

Courtney (53:00): The girl came to me and I just knew that girl has a story and I need to know what that story is. Teenagers need mentors and they need adults, they need people who believe in them and will genuinely listen to them.

Brandy (55:00): Discusses CRACKED UP TO BE by Courtney Summers. This is when she realized you can cover difficult subjects in YA books.


Christa: The Play Me scene in IF I STAY by Gayle Forman. Everything gorgeous, everything we would all want in our first time scene. Beautifully done. Sexy but not gross. You can also see Christa’s previous list here: http://christaramblesandwrites.blogspot.com/2014/03/consent-and-sensitivity-good-sex-in-ya.html

Carrie: Everty time you see a good sex scene with good consent, put something up on your Tumblr. If it is real and there is good consent, honor that by giving it some love online. You can also see Carrie’s previous list here: http://carriemesrobian.com/2014/03/sexconsent-positive-ya-books-the-svyalit-project/

1) FREE FALL by Mindi Scott – told from a boy’s point of view; funny and vulnerable and real and there is information there about the steps involved

2) NOT THAT KIND OF GIRL by Siobhan Vivian – demonstrates negotiation

Brandy: USES FOR BOY by Erica Lorraine Scheidt – I was completely blown away; it was so moving, what the character needed.

Courtney C. Stevens:

1) THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green – really, really sweet. Didn’t expect the book to go there.

2) FIRE by Kristen Cashore – very realistic, very beautiful

3) IF I STAY by Gayle Forman


1) INFINITY GLASS by Myra McEntire – “So do I have a green light?”

2) PLUS ONE by Elizabeth Fama – he checks in half way through like

3) THIS SIDE OF SALVATION by Jeri Smith-Ready

You can also see Karen’s previous list here: http://www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com/2014/03/take-5-sexconsent-positive-books.html

Karen’s Final Note About the Power Dynamics of the Age of Consent:
Several times the discussion of power dynamics in a relationship came up, which are important parts of both POINTE and FAKING NORMAL. And these get into the idea of the age of consent. This topic actually came up recently in a conversation I had with my Tween daughter. I was talking to her about power issues in relationships. I don’t know how it came up, but she asks a lot of questions lately, which is obviously age appropriate and not surprising. But I started to tell her this story about how when I was a Sophomore in high school I started dating a young man in College. He was definitely breaking age of consent laws. One night we had plans to go play miniature golf. I got in his car and he drove right past the golf place to his apartment. Wanting to think the best, I went to his apartment with him. Luckily, as things started to progress he stopped when I told him to. But the truth is, in the moment I was incredibly vulnerable. No one knew where I was. He had all the power; he was physically stronger, older and more experienced, and if he had really wanted to he could have already had a weapon or drugs or some such ready. Thankfully, he was not that guy. But he could have been. I thought not just about power, but about situational differences between teens and adults. It’s one thing when you are a 15 year old dating a 15 year old and you are both trying to find some place to make out and there just really aren’t any and your both fumbling around trying to figure out how to even kiss or whatever. It’s much different when all the sudden you are with an adult who has their own private space – an apartment or a house – and now there is a whole different dynamic going on. That adult doesn’t have to worry about a sibling or parent walking in on you in the car or basement. It’s seems like already the rules are different because the situational dynamics are different, if that makes sense.  

Talking with Teens About Consent
Sexual Assault Awareness Month, talking to teens about consent and rape part 1 and part 2
This is What Consent Looks Like
The Curios Case of the Kissing Doctor and Consent 

The Healthy Sex Talk: Teaching Kids Consent, Ages 1-21 (the Good Men Project)
Why Talking with Teens About the Age of Consent Matters
On Teachable Moments and Consent 

Recaps and Video of the First 2 Discussion Panels:
Recap and Video of the first panel discussing Faultline, Sex & Violence and Where the Stars Still Shine

Recap and Video of the second panel discussing Charm & Strange, Canary, and The Gospel of Winter  

See Complete Project Outline and Details Here

Separating Fiction from the Author, aka the post where author Carrie Mesrobian explains that fiction is fiction

Yesterday on Twitter, I kind of lost my mind. I do that on Twitter frequently. Sometimes it’s about the problems of women’s fashion. Sometimes it’s about television shows. Sometimes it’s about sex and our cultural insanity surrounding it.

Yesterday it was about reader reactions to fiction and how some readers assume that any sort of fictional representation equals endorsement by the author.

 It was, I admit, a response to reading yet another review where the reader seems to conflate the depiction of any sort of discomforting or unconscionable reality (teenagers using drugs or having sex, use of the word ‘fag,’ discussion of masturbation, parents who turn a blind eye to bad behavior, people who use swear words in daily speech) with author endorsement of such reality.

It kind of drives me nuts. By describing something, I’m endorsing it?

Is the traffic reporter on the radio endorsing gridlock?

What the hell?

(Yes, I endorse swearing. No, I don’t endorse the use of the word ‘fag.’ Yes, I believe in masturbation. )

Is that what people expect writers to do? Explain their personal foibles and opinions and stances on a variety of topics their books may bring up? Just to hit readers with a sledgehammer prior to starting the story so they know WHAT THE AUTHOR THINKS and WHERE SHE STANDS ON THESE TOPICS and THAT SHE UNDERSTANDS THAT SMOKING POT WHILE SWIMMING IS REALLY DANGEROUS and WHAT KIND OF PARENT ARE YOU THAT YOU WOULDN’T PUT A STOP THAT KIND OF THING?

I think some readers really want that. And some of these readers purport to love YA. I don’t understand this reaction. It feels incomplete. Unfinished. A reaction of someone who is fundamentally unclear about the purpose of reading. Reading isn’t about role models or making new friends or making people smile or affirming someone’s view of the world. Though I suppose it could be all of those things, it doesn’t have to. Books don’t OWE you happy endings or good behavior or the portrayal of a rational universe. Books don’t owe you morality. Books don’t owe you SHIT. That’s why you can pick them up as easy as you lay them down.

While I like the people I interact with to be moral, I don’t place such burdens on books. And I don’t know why some readers have this expectation, either.

Would me explicitly assuring readers about my own personal deportment help the discussion of issues I raise in a book Sex & Violence? Would an overt manifesto about my moral and ethical code help people talk about things like drug use and alcohol use in adolescence? Would that help people talk more about sex and sexual identity? Is that where we are now — all readers must know in blatant and obvious and artless terms, where I come down on all the hot-button controversies that make many people’s asses clench in panic?

Would it comfort those readers to know that, no, I don’t say to my kid, “Hey fuckface!  Go brush your goddamn teeth so we can go smoke pot together and then talk about how having meaningless sex when you’re 15 is a great idea!” Would they like to know about all the boring evenings I spend making her do her homework and reading to her and telling her to go to bed 99 million times? Would they like to know what a boring, moral, routine life I lead? Would they like to know every bad choice I’ve ever made and how I amended or rectified those bad choices (or what daily regrets plague me if I haven’t amended or rectified them?)

At the risk of sounding whiny and naïve, I kind of want readers to leave me out of it. Talk about the book. Talk about the morality of the characters. But don’t assume that my characters speech and actions mirror my speech and actions because that is not going to be true 100% of the time.

(Obviously, the swearing thing is true, in my case. I’d say I’m sorry, but my father daily scolds me on this so if it comforts you, please realize I’m getting what’s coming to me for all my ‘cussing, foul-mouthed’ behavior.)

Or maybe you could just let the story do the talking. Or let your own mouth do the talking. Or let the kids who come to the library looking for books do the talking. I’ve already gone on for 300 pages. I kind of want to be done talking. Let the book be the beginning of the conversation. Don’t end it before it starts by judging the behavior of the fake people within or assuming things about the creator of those fake people, either.

Fiction is about problems. It’s not about good decision-making. It’s about conflict and struggle and battle and terrible, terrible decisions. Sometimes people make good decisions in fiction, but there’s no requirement that they always will. You want to read about people making good decisions, you’ve got two choices:

– read a health textbook

– read a pamphlet in the waiting room of the Guidance Counselor

If you want to understand the complexity of life, read about someone fucking things up.

Better yet, if you want to understand the complexity of life, read about someone fucking things up and then trying to fix them.

Carrie Mesrobian is the author of Sex and Violence, which ended up on many best of the year lists for 2013 for it’s complex look at one young man’s struggles to heal after really screwing things up.

Sexual Violence in YA Literature Hangout Wrap Up

About two hours ago I hosted my first ever Google Hangout on Air to (mostly) non-disastrous effects.  I’ll have to write you a post about what I learned about doing that some other time.  But what I really want to talk about is the conversation that I had with authors Christa Desir, Trish Doller and Carrie Mesrobian about their books, sexual violence in culture and in ya literature, and more.

You can see the entire conversation here in the embedded clip below.  There are a few technical hiccups, but it was a really good conversation.  I suggest listening to the audio and not watching the video itself as it freezes in a couple of places.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0q-3qXsB_9I?rel=0]

About our Authors:
Carrie Mesrobian is the Morris Award finalist of Sex & Violence.  Sex & Violence is the emotional story of Evan, once a player who sets out on a journey of healing and self-evaluation after a traumatic – and almost deadly – experience.

 Christa Desir is an activist, editor and the author of FaultlineFaultline is the story of a girl (Ani) who was gang raped at a party and how her boyfriend, Ben, deals with his guilt and feelings in the aftermath.

Trish Doller is the author of many YA books, including Where the Stars Still Shine. Where the Stars Still Shine is the story of Callie. After being kidnapped by her mother as a child, Callie is returned to a family that she never really knew about and struggles with the various feelings she has about her childhood, including some sexual abuse that she experienced. It also deals with mental illness.

Some of the Highlights:

All three books have a very different perspective on the topic.  

Christa was a rape victim advocate.  She set out to tell the story from the point of view of Ben because she wanted to show how sexual violence affects others involved in the victims life and not just in the immediate aftermath but in the long time aftermath.

In Trish’s research, she learned that some people respond to sexual violence by trying to take control of their sexuality and find a more fulfilling sexual experience by pursuing many different sexual relationships.  (This is also the reaction in Faultline).  It is important to recognize that there are multiple ways that survivors respond to being a victim of a sexual crime.  All reactions are valid and we should approach them and respond with compassion.

As in Faultline, Sex & Violence also looks at the trauma of outside parties not directly involved in the rape.

Carrie talks in detail about how our current culture teaches boys to think about both woman and sex and how it is important that we talk more openly about sex because when we fail to it can allow dysfunction to grow.  We need to let boys know that it is normal to have sexual feelings so that they can talk openly and develop healthy sexual feelings and talk more openly about consent.

Christa wanted to engage boys in the conversation about sexuality and consent.  It was important that Ben was not a hero.  She wanted the discussion about the after effects to be part of the discussion.  Boys need to be involved more in the conversations about consent and sexual violence.  They need to know that men can be involved in ya literature about sexual violence and not have to be the perpetrator.

Trish began talking about the comments she has received and our tendency towards slut shaming and victim blaming.  Great quote: “Sexual abuse victims already feel shame, they don’t need more shame by being judged for the way they choose to recover.”  Christa added to this idea that we need to remove the judgment in survivors, even when we are reviewing books with sexual violence, and approach victims – always – with compassion.

Trish had presents a great discussion about the idea of “throw away girls” and how it adds to girls self perception and rape culture.  The dialogue needs to continually affirm the value of all people.

You really need to listen Carrie discussing Male and Female sexuality and slut shaming around 20:50.  And Christa added some good insight about the double standard towards guys who don’t want to be sexual conquerors.  We need to have broader categories, be more accepting, of people for being whoever they are at the time.  Carrie added that there is research called Challenging Casanova that indicates that most me,n whether straight or gay, want to be in one relationship.

All the authors agreed that it is important to have more open discussions about sex and sexual violence to help create more healthy approaches to sex.  Carrie has a great discussion about privacy around 30 minutes.  Here, she says, it where dysfunction hides.

Christa points out that rape victims can be any age, race, or gender.  There is nothing that puts you at risk and nothing that makes you safe.  Someone in your life will be a victim of sexual violence and you might be the person in their life that they choose to share with.  Christa says, “The moral of the story is have a conversation.”

If you don’t watch the whole video, do listen to what Carrie, Christa and Trish have to say around the 1 minute mark about entitlement, street harassment, and the slippery slope into sexual violence. We end our discussion by having a discussion about using rape responsibly in YA lit and discussing how the entitlement that our culture suggests we have can lead to sexual violence, street harassment and rape culture.  It also influences the way we feel about our selves and how we move about in our world. So profound this ending of the conversation.

Karen’s Closing Thoughts:

One of the questions I asked was about the response of parents, educators, social workers, etc. to their books.  The truth is, many parents and educators want to pretend that teenagers don’t think about sex, but biology is not in our favor here. For all teens, by the time they enter into high school (and for many it begins much earlier), those hormones kick in and they are in fact thinking about – and some of them are having – sex.  Pretending that it doesn’t happen and refusing to talk about it doesn’t keep them safe, but having honest discussions can.  And it can help them process their feelings and develop healthy sexual identities.  I get the fear, trust me, I am a mom.  But as Carrie mentioned, talking to your child about the circus typically doesn’t result in them running off to join the circus and talking to our teens about sex, sexual safety, and even sexual violence probably isn’t going to make them decide to become sexually active.  But giving them correct information can help them make better decisions.

The other reasons books like these authors are important is that it can help us all to develop empathy.  As Trish mentioned, there is not one way that a person responds to sexual violence.  Having multiple stories can help us in many ways:  It can help us see the signs before it happens, it can help us develop empathy and respond in compassionate ways to those we encounter in our lives that have been subjected to sexual violence, and it can help take those things that are done in the dark into the light so that it happens less because now we as a culture are knowledgeable and informed and we don’t let perpetrators hide in dark shadows.  And if someone commits an act of sexual violence against another person, it is always their fault.  As Christa mentioned, THERE IS NO BUT.

There is a scene in Where the Stars Still Shine that is just brilliant to me in highlighting survivor feelings and triggers.  Callie is in the process of getting intimate with the boy who is genuinely attentive and safe; he cares about her needs.  But the staging of the moment triggers her memory and she tells him what he needs to do to make the moment safe for her.  It is such an effective and poignant scene.

Sex & Violence is such a profound journey of both physical and emotional healing as Evan re-evaluates how he has perceived women and sex.  It reminds me so much of early Chris Crutcher, like Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, which is the highest compliment I have.

Faultline will gut you when you realize what happens to Ani.  I so admire Christa for making us think not only about how rape affects the victim, but about how it affects those who love the victim.  You can really see her experience as an advocate coming through in the way she shares this story and the depth of emotion that is portrayed.

I also mentioned the new title The Gospel of Winter for a look at the grooming aspect of sexual abuse.

I also discusses Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama and how it made me think about the issue of Street Harassment.

I want to give a special thanks to our authors for their time and thoughtful discussion.

Resources Mentioned:

The Gift of Fear and Protecting the Gift by Gavin DeBecker

Talking about using sexual violence responsibly in literature:
A Discussion of Using Rape as a Plot Device
Jaclyn Friedman post about using rape as a plot device
Maggie Steifvater discusses Literary Rape

Carrie Mesrobian has some good resources and a list of recommended titles on her blog today as well

Christa Desir also wrote about the chat yesterday on her blog in this important post

More on Sexual Violence and YA Lit at TLT:

What It’s Like for a Girl: How Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama made me think about the politics of sexuality in the life of girls
Sexual Assault Awareness Month, talking to teens about consent and rape part 1 and part 2
Should there be sex in YA books? 
Plan B: What Youth Advocates Need to Know 
Because No Always Mean No, a list of books dealing with sexual assault
Who Will Save You? Boundaries, Rescue and the Role of Adults in YA Lit.  A look at consent and respecting boundaries in relationships outside of just sex. 
Incest, the last taboo 
This is What Consent Looks Like
Street Harassment
That Time Matt Smith Perpetuated Street Harassment Culture at Comic Con
An Anonymous Letter to Those Who Would Ban Eleanor and Park
Take 5: Difficult books on an important topic (sexual violence)   
The Curios Case of the Kissing Doctor and Consent 
Book Review: The Gospel of Winter by Brendan Kiely
Take 5: Sexual Violence in the Life of Boys

On the BBC’s Sherlock: A Study in Character, a guest post by author Carrie Mesrobian

Sherlock holds a sweet spot in my heart and not just I’m flooded with animated GIFs on my Tumblr feed of Sherlock and John kissing (I AM JOHN-LOCKED, etc.). And not just because it’s a brilliantly written and acted show.

I love Sherlock because my daughter Matilda, age 10, also loves it. So it’s one of the rare times my husband and my daughter can join me in one of my television obsessions. (Read what she wrote about her other television obsession, The Walking Dead, here)
Because we don’t have cable, we have to wait until January 19th, when season 3 premieres on PBS. I’m fairly DYING, because I have to avoid Tumblr (and I do love my Tumblr, you know) and because my family is full of predictions about Sherlock’s faked death and how he pulled it off.


 “I think he cloned himself; he just killed one of the extra bodies,” said Matilda.

“How did he clone himself?  Did the Baskerville lab scientists help him?” I asked.
“No, he probably just made Molly do it in her lab or whatever,” she replied.
Meanwhile, my husband is sure that Moriarty isn’t dead.
“If he’s dead, they’ll have to make up another villain,” Adrian said. “And who could be a better villain than Moriarty?”
Adrian’s also confident that The Woman – Irene Adler – will return. I think his confidence is partly wishful, due to Irene Adler’s tendency to appear on the show naked, but I also find her character riveting as well.
Irene Adler brings me to the real point I want to discuss, however: the beguiling character of Sherlock himself.
To sum him up, again, here’s Matilda: “Sherlock is an amazing person, but sometimes he’s kind of a dick.”

Editor’s note: Sherlock apparently needs to read this book from Zest Books

Indeed, this is what we’ve been learning, through John Watson’s viewpoint. Sherlock, though he’s a deductive genius, is extremely socially inept. He even claims to be a sociopath at one point, correcting a member of the police who calls him a psychopath. Truly, he is a character obsessed with solving mysteries, at times appearing not to care about the lives he might save or the good he might do – only the work, solving the puzzle, is alluring to him.

So, in a time when everyone wants characters who are “likeable,” why do we fascinate on Sherlock?
I think it’s because Sherlock himself is a mystery. The world reveals much to him at a mere glance but he himself, his own internal life and emotions, remain opaque to us. His relationships are minimal; he can’t get along with his brother Mycroft, and it’s a big step when he tells John in The Hounds of Baskerville that he doesn’t have “friends” but rather “one friend” – John himself, who is a relatively recent acquaintance.
Irene Adler is a character we enjoy watching for many reasons. But the key one is that she manages to reveal more about Sherlock – A Scandal in Belgravia features both of them literally naked as well –  as we see the effect she has on him, even as Sherlock strives to hide it. As viewers we are hoping she will give us more clues about Sherlock’s emotional capacity.

Source: Tumblr

Jim Moriarty also offers slight suggestive glimpses to the existence of any sense of morality in Sherlock’s precise, scientific brain. As foils and rivals, Moriarty presents a crucial question: what is the difference between him and Sherlock? We want to assume Sherlock has a conscience while Moriarty does not, but so far we don’t have much clear evidence on this fact.

So while we all are fascinated at the idea of being someone like Sherlock, having a mind that functions as his does, the mystery of him — and the show itself —  is how a person whose thought processes work in such vivid, amazing ways actually experiences the world in terms of emotions and morals and ethics and instincts. Does Sherlock not possess any of those things? Or does he suppress them in order to let his mind do its fantastic feats? Is it possible to truly know him as a person? Will John Watson succeed in becoming his true confidant and not just a sounding board and companion on adventures?
I look forward to journeying through these mysteries on January 19th, though I can’t live-tweet, as I need to pay full attention to everything (also no commercials makes it harder) and hope to offer up a recap/response on the premiere on my own blog.

About Carrie Mesrobian

Carrie Mesrobian is a native Minnesotan. A former high school Spanish instructor, Carrie currently teaches at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. Her writing has appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Brain, Child magazine, and Calyx. Her debut young adult novel, Sex & Violence(Carolrhoda LAB) received stars from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly. Her second novel, Perfectly Good White Boy, will be released in fall of 2014. She currently lives with her husband (Adrian), daughter (Matilda) and dog (Pablo), all of whom are pretty excellent.

Sex and Violence: An Unlikely Coming to Be (guest post by author Carrie Mesrobian)

I didn’t set out to write a book about a sex-focused boy who gets nearly killed in a vicious assault.

I didn’t set out to write about a boy at all.
This book started with me being annoyed. Annoyed at the female heroines in lots of YA books.
I was tired of the YA girl who:
          Didn’t know she was beautiful
          Was saving her first sex for ‘the right boy’ or ‘true love’
          Was quirky or an outsider
          Thought sex, drugs and other risk-taking was a big giant hairy deal
          Wore combat boots and thrift store clothes
          Had sidekick friends who were more interesting than she was
So the story started with a girl named Baker Trieste. Originally, she was going to be on some kind of quest, defeat something supernatural. Only, I don’t believe in anything supernatural, though I love reading stories about that stuff. I sucked at imagining another paranormal world or whatever. So the story just became about these kids kicking around a lake the last summer before college.
Baker Trieste is a smart girl. She’s pretty. She’s an extrovert.  She’s girly. She wears clothes from the mall and bikinis.
But. Baker Trieste also smokes pot, drinks to get drunk, loves history, and doesn’t entertain too many dreams about being with her high school boyfriend after they both set off for different colleges. She’s implemented an open relationship, in fact, to deal with their eventual break-up, thinking this will make things easier. And in tandem with that, she decides it will be a Summer Of Last Chances, where she and her friends will all get to do all the things they’ve never done before. Her dream? To explore Story Island, in the middle of Pearl Lake.
So, why did Evan Carter, serial pervert and man-whore, come to barge into the story and knock Baker out as narrator?
It was an accident. I wanted to a new-comer to the Pearl Lake setting and I wanted to get to know him. So I wrote in his first-person POV for a while and it was unbelievably fun. I have never imagined myself into a guy’s brain before and it was such a juicy set of problems to solve. Being in a guy’s head when I was a teenager would have been so damn helpful, you know? My friends and I spent way too much time trying to figure guys out: Did they like us? Did they only like us when they were drunk? Did they only want sex or did they really like us as people? Did they just need a ride to a party? Were they flirting or just being nice? Was it our outfits? Our hair? Our too-small or too-big boobs? 
Being Evan for me was like being given the key to a car I’d always wanted to drive. Or a door I’d always wanted to open. And putting him next to Baker, a girl who embodied many of my own teenage qualities as well as ones I’d love girls her age to have, was a pleasure. He was so lucky to know her, to get to be in her company. 
If I want to be really dorky and analytical about it, Baker is Sex. Sex the way I’d want it to be. Good, and fun, and important, yes, but also just another experience in life. And Evan? He might think he’s Sex, but really, he’s Violence. He’s a victim of violence, he’s an inheritor of a violent family history, and he even tries to become a perpetrator of violence. One might argue that the pain he’s caused the girls he has sex with and then deletes from his phone is another kind of violence, emotional violence, a kind of dehumanizing objectification.
Now it sounds like I’ve written a tacky love story; that Sex meets Violence and they live happily ever after. I could have very well done that. This is why we have editors, after all. Thank you, Universe, for creating Andrew Karre.
In many ways, for me, this book is not just Evan’s story, or a boy’s story about sex and violence. It’s also the story of young women, how they come of age, how they contend with sex and violence, too, in different ways. For a character as obtuse and clueless and shitty as Evan Carter is, at least at the story’s opening, I couldn’t bear for him to meet up with girls that were weak, clichéd, or fantastical representations of Womanhood. I needed for him to see women as complex and dazzling and broken and brilliant, all in one. He needed that, as a character, and I needed that, as his creator.
And I think we all need that, as readers.
About Carrie Mesrobian
Carrie Mesrobian is a native Minnesotan. A former high school Spanish instructor, Carrie currently teaches at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. Her writing has appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Brain, Child magazine, and Calyx. Her debut young adult novel, Sex & Violence (Carolrhoda LAB) received stars from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly. Her second novel, Perfectly Good White Boy, will be released in fall of 2014. She currently lives with her husband (Adrian), daughter (Matilda) and dog (Pablo), all of whom are pretty excellent.  Find out more than you probably want to know here: www.carriemesrobian.com