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The #SVYALit Project Historical Fiction Google Hangout is Happening TODAY

Here’s a look at today’s discussion in the #SVYALit Project. Today’s topic is historical fiction and we’ll be discussing MAID OF SECRETS and MAID OF DECEPTION by Jennifer McGowan, A MAD, WICKED FOLLY by Sharon Biggs Waller and GILT by Katherine Longshore.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kfMQtsqndt0]

Here’s a link to the Cuddlebuggery post on Sex Positive YA that is mentioned.

Here’s a link to the School Library Journal article I wrote on Slut Shaming with an example of a new sex positive YA title

Here are our lists of sex positive YA mentioned: Karen’s List  Christa’s List  Carrie’s List

Also, want to know more what we mean when we say Edwardian or Victorian or Tudor historical fiction? Jennifer McGowan and I wrote an article on YA Historical Fiction which will appear in your August 2014 issue of VOYA Magazine. We break down the various time periods and give you examples in our YA historical fiction reading timeline.

Take 5: New from Scholastic – Switched at Birthday, Invasion, Manor of Secrets, Better Off Friends and The Shadow Throne

Switched at Birthday by Natalie Standiford

In the tradition of Freaky Friday, meet Lavender and Scarlet, two people who are nothing alike. Scarlet is pretty, popular, star of the soccer team. Lavender is not. But they both share a birthday and when they both make a wish, they wake up in each other’s bodies.  This is a fun read that still manages to have those little nuggets in there about self-acceptance and friendship. It’s tone is fun, is pace is quick, and the situations involved are amusing. Standiford is able to make some important points without preaching and delivering on the entertainment. For middle grade readers. My Tween is reading it and she loves it, highly recommended.

February 2014. ISBN: 9780545346504

Invasion by Walter Dean Myers
This is a prequel to Fallen Angels and Sunrise Over Falluljah. 

Publisher’s Annotation: Dead or alive? Flip a coin. With World War II sending fear through the homes of countless civilians, Josiah Wedgewood and Marcus Perry head toward a future filled with war and tough questions. One young man is black; the other is white. Friendship, race, and brotherhood is about to change everything on the front line.

Booklist and Horn Book gave this starred reviews.  Told in first person narration, Woody shares the horrors of war not that he “will never be the same again.” Profound, effective, and moving.

September 2013. ISBN: 9780545384285

Manor of Secrets by Katherine Longshore
A great read for fans of Downton Abbey.  The tagline says: Upstairs. Downstairs. Drama.

Publisher’s Annotation: Broken rules and spilled secrets make the stairs between worlds irrelevant as gorgeous, sheltered Lady Charlotte Edmonds longs for adventure and clever kitchen maid Janie Seward seeks a way to follow the passion burning within. When two girls desperate for change meet in The Manor’s halls and corridors, there is no telling how a handful of secrets will redefine their futures.

Told in alternating perspectives, Manor of Secrets examines the difference in classes in this historical tale.  I am not a big historical fiction (or history) reader, so I can’t really evaluate the historical accuracy of the tale, but it does do a good job of reminding readers of important – and timeless – issues like station and economic position in life and how it can affect one’s life. The drama and characters are entertaining. Definitely recommended.

January 2014. ISBN: 9780545567589

Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg

Macallan and Levi are friends. The very best of. People around them say that guys and girls can’t be friends, there has to be more – but are they right? Told in a kind of When Harry Met Sally way with voice overs and flashbacks, this is a fun, flirty story of two friends who happen maybe fall in love. This is a fun and appealing read. It’s a very realistic look at the very bumpy road to finding happiness and the characters are completely relatable. Highly recommended.

February 2014. ISBN: 9780545551458

The Shadow Throne by Jennifer a. Neilsen

One war.
Too many deadly battles.
Can a king save his kingdom, when his own survival seems unlikely?

This is book three in the Ascendance Trilogy.  Book 1 is The False Prince and book 2 is The Runaway King. In book 1, to help protect the king, an impersonator is installed on the throne. Now, war is at the doorstep and one last adventure awaits. This is a good series and if you haven’t read it yet, I recommend that you do.

February 2014. ISBN: 9780545284172

Sexual Violence in YA Lit, the project

It began with Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson many years ago. This book really touched me, as it has readers around the world.  And it made me start thinking a lot about how we can use literature to talk with teens about really tough topics; about things like recognizing the signs so that you can ask for help, about the need for empathy, about the ways in which our society tends to blame victims instead of rapists . . . Books can open eyes, bring healing, and start conversations.

Throughout my years working with teens, I have met many tweens and teens that have been the victims of sexual violence.  In fact, current statistics indicate that by the time they are 18 years old 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys will be the victim of some type of sexual violence.

So I knew I wanted to do more.  For the last 3 years I have been working behind the scenes trying to find a way to get this project off of the ground.  Then I had a brainstorm and invited authors Christa Desir, Carrie Mesrobian and Trish Doller to have a virtual panel on the topic and they graciously agreed.  We had an awesome conversation and got such a positive response that we decided to continue the project. Here are the details. Keep this page bookmarked.

Goals: To discuss sexual violence in the lives of teens and in ya literature on a bimonthly basis; raise awareness of the issues and titles that can be used to discuss the topics with teens; give librarians, educators and parents the tools to evaluate and discuss these topics in the lives of teens; promote teen reading and literature


All virtual panels will be Google Hangouts on Air at Noon Eastern time.  We will post URLs to watch as we get closer to each date.  Afterwards we will post the video recordings and write recaps.  Everything will be linked back to here for your convenience.  We recommend that you read the books each month if you can, but we will be discussing the issues and additional titles as well.  Here’s a more detailed look at the titles.

Contemporary Debuts, dealing with sexual violence

Date: March 26th
Moderator: Carrie Mesrobian
Confirmed Guests: Stephanie Kuehn (CHARM AND STRANGE), Rachele Alpine (CANARY), and Brendan Kiely (THE GOSPEL OF WINTER)
Recap and Video of the second panel discussing Charm & Strange, Canary, and The Gospel of Winter

Consent Positive YA Lit: Looking at positive depictions of healthy relationships and consent in YA literature
Date: May 21st
Moderator(s): Christa Desir, Carrie Mesrobian, Karen Jensen
Confirmed: Courtney Stevens (FAKING NORMAL), Brandy Colbert (POINTE)
Recap and Video of the third panel discussing Pointe and Faking Normal  

When Past Meets Present, a look at the issues in terms of historical fiction and what we can learn from the past

Date: July 30th
Moderator: Christa Desir
Confirmed: Jenn McGowan (MAID OF SECRETS/MAID OF DECEPTION, Katherine Longshore (GILT), Sharon Biggs Waller (A MAD, WICKED FOLLY)

It’s the End of the World as We Know It, what we can learn about current issues surrounding sexual violence through dystopian/post apocalyptic fiction

Date:September 24th
Confirmed: Mindy McGinnis (NOT A DROP TO DRINK), Ilsa J. Bick (ASHES), and Elizabeth Fama (PLUS ONE)

Bringing it Back to Contemporary Fiction: An overview of 2014 titles and a look ahead at 2015
Date: November 19th

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

Hashtag: #SVYALit

SVYALit Tumblr

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

A BIG list of titles on the TLT Tumblr

Karen’s Historical Fiction Challenge Update: Tarnish by Katherine Longshore

So, I have now read the 4th out of 5 books in my personal historical fiction challenge.  That book was Tarnish by Katherine Longshore.  So, let’s chat.

We all know I am not awesome at history, that’s the reason for the challenge.  This book is about Anne Boleyn, and even I know who she is.  I loved her in this book because she was the anti-thesis of everything that I struggle with as a historical fiction nonreader: she is strong willed, intelligent, and refuses to be put in the pretty, pretty box that a lot of women are forced to be in.  But she suffers for it in reputation, when we first meet her she has just returned from being sent away for a previous thing.  Longshore creates a strong, admirable female character while remaining authentic to the time period.

Anne is trying to seek the favor of the king in court and she strikes up a deal with the devil, in this case the devil is named Thomas Wyatt.  Everything about their bargain is interesting as they both try to remain true to their character, win, and to up their station in court.  The one thing they can’t do is to allow themselves to fall in love.  That would be bad and put both of their stations in jeopardy.  Plus, Wyatt is already married.  But marriage isn’t much of a deterrent in this time period because almost all the men have mistresses and very few of the people marry for love.  That in itself is a very interesting aspect of this world.

Like The Rose Throne (which is technically fantasy, not historical fiction) and Maid of Honor, there is a lot of action taking place here in court.  And I don’t mean the throw the book at them court, but the we are all part of the king’s (or queen’s) inner circle jockeying for position court.  If you like that type of historical fiction, then you will find this to be an excellent read.

The one thing I really struggled with was the YA aspect of this:  I am not sure that it really has a teen voice.  Anne is supposed to be around 16 in this book, and of course she wouldn’t talk like a modern day teenager, but her voice was really mature and sophisticated.  That’s probably correct for the time period, but I don’t know how well my teen readers would embrace it.  Also, there was a lot of very frank, mature discussion of sex.  For example, Anne’s sister is a mistress to the king and often refers to herself as a whore.  So while I thought it was a really well developed and written story, it didn’t necessarily read as YA to me.

So, things that are done well and I really liked:

The characters are richly developed
The deal with the devil and the plan to catch a king, with all of its emotional complexity
The behind the scenes look at a well known historical character and incident
The thoughtful look at what it means to fall in love and some people are willing to sacrifice that for status
There was a lot of interesting family stuff in here that I didn’t mention

Things I am on the fence about:

To me, it didn’t read “young adult”.  It would work just as well in the adult section and I think find a much bigger audience there.  But then, this type of historical fiction is not as popular with my teens as it is with adult readers.  That’s how it read, to me, an adult book that teen readers of the genre would also love.  But I read a ton of reviews on the title and I am the only one who says this so I must be doing something wrong.  But then, I don’t read a lot of historical fiction (hence the challenge) so I have nothing really to compare it to.

School Library Journal and Kirkus both gave it favorable reviews.  It is well written, engaging, and definitely fills an important collection need.  Add it.  Longshore’s first title is Gilt, a novel about Catherine Howard’s marriage to Henry VIII.

Take a step back . . . in time: Karen’s personal historical fiction reading challenge

Paris Hilton left us with these infamous words: Math is Hard.  I loved math.  You always knew you had a correct answer before turning in your test.  The subject that is my arch nemesis? History.  I am not a fact retainer, but think in ideas and abstraction.  The essay test is my friend.  But trying to remember who did what with whom and on what specific date – gets me every time.

I remember very distinctly being forced to sit in a chair for hours during the 8th grade as my dad yelled at me for the note he got in the mail letting him know that I was failing history.  Good times.  And in college, I actually wrote the following as answer to a test question: “I can’t remember his name, but I know that he went around preaching door to door with a person whose first name is Andrew.”  That very nice professor gave me partial credit.

The Mr., he can recite TV and movie quotes like it is nobody’s business and I am super jealous of this talent.  It must have come in hand during all those history classes.  I can explain to you why the events of history happened and what we can learn from them, but not who did them and when.  And I can count the number of quotes I can recite from memory on one hand, which is one of the reasons I keep a quote journal.

The point of all this, I don’t read a lot of historical fiction – which I regret.  The other day I had a teenage girl and her mom in my teen area and they were trying to talk to me about historical fiction.  So I have set for myself a challenge: in 2013 I am going to read 5 historical fiction titles for yas.  I am listing the titles I am reading below, but need your help: what titles do you recommend? And for the record, I did read and LOVED Code Name Verity last year.

I am currently reading Maid of Secrets by Jenn McGowan.  It is different then I expected because it has a strong, independent female lead and isn’t overly swoony.  I am having a hard time keeping all these names and titles apart, but overall I am really enjoying the story.  PS. For more historical fiction, Jenn McGowan wrote a guest blog post for us last year highlighting some titles, be sure to check it out.

Tarnish by Katherine Longshore
Ann from over at Zest Books highly recommended this title to me and since I respect her infinitely, I am going to be reading it.  It comes out in June 2013 from Viking.  This is the story of Anne Boleyn and the tagline says, “You only think you know her story.”

Victoria Rebels by Carolyn Meyer
This title is based on Queen Victoria’s diaries, which sounds interesting.  Published in January from Simon & Schuster.

Dreaming Anastasia by Joy Preble
I had the chance to hear Joy Preble speak this past weekend at the Montgomery County Book Festival, so I thought I would give this series a try.  The story of Anastasia has always been interesting to me, and I like that it has some paranormal elements in it and isn’t a straight forward historical fiction title.

The Rose Throne by Mette Ivie Harrison
Two princesses, two kingdoms, and ancient prophecy . . .
Does a fantasy romance set in a medieval sounding location actually count as historical fiction?  Probably not.  Maybe.  But, Orson Scott Card gives it a thumbs up and I am going to give it a go. Plus, I do love fantasy.  Coming in May from EgmontUSA

So here is where I need your help, I technically have 5 titles listed here, but it is possible that a couple of them aren’t technically historical fiction.  So tell me in the comments, what 2013 historical fiction title do you recommend that I add to my personal reading challenge?